Monday marked the first day that the Texas Campus Carry law went into effect at Texas Tech University and public universities around the state. Classes haven’t started at Texas Tech yet, many of the students on campus Monday were incoming first year students going through orientation.
Over a year after Senate Bill 11 was signed into law, the public universities in Texas have each devised their own policy for Campus Carry given the spirit of the law.
Chris Cook, the Managing Director for Communications and Marketing at Texas Tech said that, “because each campus is different [the policy] is never going to mirror campus to campus.”
UT Austin for example will give staff the option of banning guns in their private offices, but that policy is not one that Texas Tech has adopted.
Though some Texas Tech professors have objected to concealed guns being carried into their offices, Cook explained that in TTU’s interpretation, the law right now allows licensed students to carry in faculty offices.
Texas Tech’s enforcement of the law may change over time, Cook explained. TTU’s Campus Carry task force has been replaced by a Campus Carry committee which will address concerns as they arise.
“The law is iron-clad, but as long as we’re not violating the spirit of the law, there may be some changes,” Cook explained.
Cook added that the TTU administration has already received questions about the specifics of law recently which may prompt Tech to make changes in how they implement it down the line.
Cook explained that on a campus like Texas Tech which encompasses many different schools, facilities, and learning environments, there is no way to anticipate every conflict that may come up with the Campus Carry law.
Cpl. Amy Ivey works in public relations and crime prevention for Texas Tech Police, she explained that her position was specifically created this summer to deal with education related to campus carry.
As the start of classes at TTU is still weeks away, Ivey spent the first day of Campus Carry educating the families of incoming first year students. She fielded many questions about the law.
“Parents have had the most questions about campus carry, there have been a few students that are over the age of 21 that have inquired about the campus carry law,” she said.
She reiterated that despite public misconceptions the law forbids anyone from openly carrying guns on campus, it does permit licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons. Concealed weapons on campus must be holstered and either on your person or within reach (i.e. In a purse or backpack), Ivey said.
She added that the most significant changes which come with this law are that licensed gun owners will now be able to carry their weapons into more places on campus.
“They’ve been able to carry concealed on campus grounds since 1995 –for over 20 years– they just haven’t been able to go into buildings,” she explained.
Under Texas Tech’s policy, people over 21 years of age with LTC’s [licenses to carry] are permitted to concealed carry in classrooms, faculty offices, four campus dormitories and many other campus buildings.
There quite a few places on campus designated as “exclusionary zones” meaning that no one can carry guns there. Some of the places in the exclusionary zones include the Student Recreation Center, the Kent Hance Chapel, any Texas Tech sporting event, and anywhere counseling services are provided. Ivey explained that individuals who carry on campus are responsible for knowing which areas are “exclusionary zones” and reading posted signs about them.
Chris Cook added that some of those “exclusionary zones” are limited by Texas law and some additional places have been chosen by Texas Tech.
Ivey explained that students who are licensed to carry can store their guns in one of four apartment-style dorms. For a student to store a weapon there, they must have an individual room, a door that locks, as well as a lockable safe to put their weapon in (Texas Tech will not provide gun safes, students must provide those on their own), Ivey said.
“It is against the law to record who carries a handgun, the only people that can actually ask if you have a License to Carry are peace officers acting on their duties on a day-to-day basis” Ivey explained. Consequently, neither TTU police nor campus housing will keep record of the students who bring weapons to campus, she said.
Texas Tech Police, however, will be on the front lines of enforcing the law.
“If a student carries on campus in an exclusionary zone or they do not have a license to carry, there is gonna be a citation which will be a Class C misdemeanor that they can receive, but we will also generate an incident report, offense report that will be sent up to the Office of Student Conduct,” Ivey said.
Some students are very excited to see the law go into place. Josh Archer, a Texas Tech grad student ventured onto campus to see what was happening on the first day of the new law.
Archer has been licensed to carry for around five years and believes that licensed students are beneficial for deterring on-campus crime.
“I want a person who wants to come do harm, I want them to be scared of good people on campus,” Archer said.
He declined to tell EverythingLubbock.com whether he was exercising his right to carry on campus for the first day of the law.
“That’s a question I don’t like to answer because it’s not that I’m ashamed that I have a weapon on me, I don’t want people to know,” Archer said. “I’m not against open carry, I believe concealed carry is better because there is the possibility, you see me right now, I may have my weapon on me, I may not,” he said.
Archer has followed the Campus Carry developments across the state and overall he feels that TTU’s policy is reasonable.
“I personally feel that Tech’s done a very good job, they’ve offered means to people to get educated because that’s the thing, you need to know what this is about,” he said.
Texas Tech has held forums, discussions, and polls to gather student, staff, and faculty input on the law this past year.
Texas Tech College Republicans issued a statement about Campus Carry Sunday saying:
“The Texas Tech College Republican’s supports the recent concealed carry law that allows students and faculty to carry on our campus. We expect people who participate in the new process to act responsibly. Those that have a license to carry have been through rigorous classes and training and have been through extensive background checks by the FBI. The Tech College Republican’s believe adding more guns on campus in the hands of law abiding citizens makes TTU (Texas Tech University) a safer place. We believe that those carrying guns lawfully will discourage those carrying guns with ill intent to visit our campus and if they do there will be several of us to aid in the protection of our fellow Red Raiders.”
Some of the students and families of incoming Red Raiders who spoke to EverythingLubbock.com Monday weren’t aware of the law or that it was going into effect immediately.
“It would make me feel a little uncomfortable, simply because I don’t know [the students with LTC’s] and I don’t know the history behind them getting the gun and everything,” said Aaron Austin Beltran del Rio, a prospective student from San Antonio visiting Texas Tech Monday. Beltran del Rio said he feels uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in class next to someone who may be carrying.
Beltran del Rio wasn’t the only one hesitant about the new law.
“I don’t know how much do the students know how to handle a gun or how students would deal with situations if they could use a gun,” said Hugo Dojas, a Texas Tech student from Brazil. His friend and fellow Brazilian student, Felipe Soares, agreed.
“It’s weird, I think it’s dangerous, especially coming from Brazil, I didn’t see that very much, we don’t have that. But here in Texas its very common, not a lot, but some people carry guns” Soares said. “But coming to class with a gun for me, it can be very dangerous.”
Soares said that when he next goes into class, he will be wondering if any of his classmates are carrying. He hopes that his peers who take advantage of their right to carry act responsibly.
“I hope that the person that is carrying the gun to class hopefully knows how to use it, because it’s not a toy, it’s something that can be very dangerous,” he said.
Most private universities in Texas opted out of campus carry including Lubbock Christian University and Wayland Baptist University.