Most Texas college students won’t be returning to campus until mid-August, but there will be one big change at the start of the 2016 school year: Some co-eds can carry concealed handguns at the state’s public universities, and at one private college, Amberton University. (All other private universities opted out.) The new law goes into effect on Monday, a day also marked by the somber 50th anniversary of a gruesome sniper shooting at the University of Texas at Austin. The gunman, Charles Whitman, killed 17 and wounded more than 30, targeting his victims from atop a campus tower. University officials unveiled a new memorial to the victims of the shooting Monday.
Lawmakers told the Austin American-Statesman that the date is happenstance: The legislature wanted the law in effect at the start of the fall semester. (UT’s first day of classes is August 24.) The law will grant people over the age of 21 (who have a concealed-carry license) the right to bring handguns onto campus, including into classrooms and academic buildings. Students can’t keep guns in dorms, but they can bring them into common spaces — cafeterias, study halls, and lounges. People visiting the dorms — parents, say — can carry a concealed weapon. The rule only applies to handguns; rifles and long guns are prohibited. Open-carry remains illegal.
The University of Texas at Austin, the main campus in the state’s large public-university system, will designate “hundreds” of areas, marked by signs, where people can’t carry guns, including sporting events and campus spaces serving kids high-school age and younger. The UT observation deck is also off-limits; it is the site where, in 1966, Whitman staged his shooting rampage.
Texas is the tenth state to allow concealed-carry on campus, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some University of Texas professors have sued the college, arguing the concealed-carry law will curtail free speech and force professors to censor lectures and discussions for fear of retaliation. Advocates of the law argue that students will now be able to defend themselves against potential campus shooters. Either way, it’s unlikely a huge portion of the student body will join in the “campus carry.” The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas estimates, right now, that less than one percent of the student body will have a license.