By Lindsey Li
Lindsey Li is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
Governor Greg Abbott recently provided new venues for Texas’ proud gun owners to carry their weapons in public, approving Mandatory Campus Carry. The new policy requires post-secondary educational institutions to allow firearms on campus.  Signing the bill into law on a gun range, Abbott proclaimed Texans’ Second Amendment rights “Stronger and more secure than ever before”. 
For the past two decades, Texans have had the right to carry concealed handguns in public spaces, and the state is home to some of the nation’s most relaxed gun laws, as license holders are not required to go through metal detectors at the state capitol because it is already assumed they are armed. However, many Texans believe this right should not extend to students. They believe that any such policy should be left to the discretion of each university’s government and student bodies, an “institutional Campus Carry” policy. In contrast, mandatory Campus Carry allows “license holders to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses – but included a caveat that lets college presidents designate gun-free zones”.  In a vote that took only an hour, the state House of Representatives passed the “controversial measure 98-to-47”.  Advocates of the policy applauded students’ newfound ability to protect themselves, freeing them from any dependence on campus security, and defended the decision, claiming that a “common error made by anti-gun groups…is the failure to logically delineate the differences in the motivations of individuals who would use lethal force to be predators and those that are willing to use lethal force to stop the predation”.  However, it remains unclear how the pro-arms group draws the distinction itself.
Like all controversial policies, Campus Carry inspired extreme backlash from students and university administrations alike. In a letter addressed to Governor Abbott, written soon after the passing of Campus Carry, the student-body presidents from eleven public schools (Angelo State University, Trinity University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the UH Clear Lake, University of Texas-Austin, UH Downtown, San Jacinto College, Houston Community College, and UT Dallas) and one private school (Rice University) asked the state governor to reject the new policy. The collaborative letter represents the interests of over 300,000 students. They explained the differences in culture that characterize each of Texas’ university campuses, to demonstrate the necessity of giving university governments the power to determine their own gun control laws. Citing their peers’ trust in the university administration to “create a safe and educational environment”, they demanded their university’s governing bodies be “empowered to make these decisions.”  Moreover, university administrations and staff worry that allowing guns may, intuitively, increase violence amongst students on campus, and increase the frequency of accidents and self-harm in an “environment already fraught with stress and often fragile emotions”. 
The fear that incidents of self-harm will increase under Campus Carry is not unfounded. The number of suicides of 18-25 year olds continues to increase, and under this new policy the state government is essentially providing more outs to those battling depression and contemplating self-harm, instead of focusing resources on helping these students live with their mental illnesses. In fact, Campus Carry, to be implemented in August 2016, will cost “nearly $47 million combined over six years to update security systems, build gun storage facilities and bolster campus police units” for the University of Texas and University of Houston systems.  If the most basic obligation of our government is to protect its constituents and the most basic obligation of our post-secondary institutions is to educate and expand young minds to help them become well-rounded contributors to our society, how does an increase in the presence of firearms on campuses respect either duty?
Despite the questionable benefit of the Texas’ new gun policy, Representative Greg Steube of Florida has started pushing for “lawful concealed carry on Florida’s public colleges and universities.”  Florida has taken the Campus Carry concept even further, introducing a “group of five bills [in Florida] that would even allow guns in K-12 schools”.  Campus Carry laws are quickly becoming a hot topic of debate in states across the nation. These laws do not affect private universities to the same extent as they do public universities, as private schools in states with Mandatory Campus Carry are allowed to opt out of the policy; however, there are provisions in place that allow students at these private universities to request permission from the administration to have a concealed firearm on campus.
Admiral William McRaven, current chancellor of the nine-school University of Texas system and commander of the U.S. Special Operations force that killed Osama Bin Laden, spoke out against Mandatory Campus Carry, claiming that this expansion of Texas students’ Second Amendment right could lead to the suppression of their First Amendment rights: “If you have guns on campus, I question whether or not that will inhibit freedom of speech. If you’re in a heated debate with somebody in the middle of the classroom, and you don’t know whether or not that individual is carrying, how does that inhibit the interaction between students and faculty?” 
 “Guns on Campus: Overview.” National Conference of State Legislatures. February 23, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2015. http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/guns-on-campus-overview.aspx
 Nazernia, Tina. “Student Leaders Urge Abbott not to Sign Campus Carry.” Houston Chronicle. June 8, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2015. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Student-leaders-urge-Abbott-not-to-sign-campus-6314805.php
 The Associated Press. “Abbott Signs Open Carry, Campus Carry into Law.” KXAN. June 14, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2015. http://kxan.com/2015/06/13/abbott-to-sign-open-carry-campus-carry-into-law/
 Smith, Morgan. “Texas Lawmakers Pass Bill Letting People Carry Guns on College Campuses.” The Washington Post. June 3, 2015. Accessed August 6, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/06/03/texas-lawmakers-pass-bill-letting-people-carry-guns-on-college-campuses/
 Horman, B. Gil. “8 Arguments for Concealed Campus Carry on Campus.” Guns and Ammo. March 29, 2012. Accessed August 6, 2015. http://www.gunsandammo.com/galleries/8-reasons-for-concealed-carry-on-campus/
 Ta, Andrew. “Texas Student Body Presidents Ask Abbott to Reject Campus Carry.” The Rice Thresher. June 8, 2015. Accessed August 6, 2015. http://www.ricethresher.org/news/texas-student-body-presidents-ask-abbott-to-reject-campus-carry/article_139c6512-0de9-11e5-bd68-279ee1bac2e1.html
 Benning, Tom. “Texas Senate approves campus carry, but with some flexibility for colleges.” The Dallas Morning News. May 31, 2015. Accessed August 7, 2015. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20150530-texas-senate-approves-campus-carry-but-with-some-flexibility-for-colleges.ece
 McGaughy, Lauren. “Campus carry would cost Texas colleges millions.” Houston Chronicle. February 21, 2015. Accessed 8, 2015. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Campus-carry-would-cost-Texas-colleges-millions-6094445.php
 Eger, Chris. “Florida lawmakers renew efforts to expand campus carry.” Guns.com. August 10, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015. http://www.guns.com/2015/08/10/florida-lawmakers-renew-efforts-to-expand-campus-carry/
 Reindl, Jade. “Say no to guns on college campuses.” CNN. February 26, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/26/opinion/reindl-cocco-campus-no-guns/
 The Editorial Board. “Campus-carry Gun Laws Won’t Make Colleges Safer: Our View.” USA Today. June 10, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/06/08/guns-handguns-concealed-carry-college-campus-texas-legislature-editorials-debates/28688893/
Photo Credit: Flickr User Ed Schipul
The opinions and views expressed through this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.