It’s the first week back to class at Texas Tech University and the first week of class with the statewide campus carry law in effect. Texas Tech experienced no incidents with the law or with guns on campus since the law went into effect August 1 at public universities across Texas.
Some of the most significant changes the law brings to the Texas Tech campus are that licensed individuals can carry concealed handguns both into classrooms and faculty offices (designated laboratories, however are among some of the exclusionary zones where guns are entirely prohibited). Some professors say this new law hasn’t really been on their minds this semester, but others say the law has them approaching this school year with more concern.
Professor Ron Milam who teaches Military History at TTU allowed EverythingLubbock.com to sit in on his first class of the semester Tuesday.
After going over Herodotus and his syllabus, he addressed the class about something that wasn’t written in the syllabus.
“You are the first class to be students at Texas Tech under the provisions of a new law last year called Senate Bill 11,” Milam explained to the class of mostly first year students. He informed them their fellow students may carry concealed weapons into classrooms and certain dormitories.
“I was on committees where we debated that issue. Many of you, like me, are perhaps familiar with guns. But the law is in existence and Texas Tech will honor that law,” Milam said.
He encouraged students with questions about the law to reach ask him or another person on campus who they trust.
Before he went in to class, Milam explained to EverythingLubbock.com that while he was involved in the Campus Carry Task Force which helped craft TTU’s implementation of the law, he approaches the law with a heavy heart.
“What I teach in terms of military history, in terms of wars, in terms of the Holocaust, all of those topics are sensitive to certain people in the classroom, and I think I will always be aware that the things that I say–or probably more importantly the things that other students say–as controversial as those things may be, there’s always that likelihood of someone being upset,” Milam said.
He is concerned that his students may now be armed while the class is discussing potentially controversial and heated topics.
“It’s different in the sense that you know there’s a law that allows you to carry a weapon legally on your person, into your classroom, that’s an experience I’ve never had except in the military and even over there it was more controlled than it will be here,” Milam said.
Milam is a Vietnam War veteran, he said that during combat he has used a gun for it’s intended purpose.
Milam added that whether students choose to carry is up to them. For that matter, Milam said, the law is intended to work so that no one on campus knows who is carrying concealed weapons.
“We’re now in a different environment, not only for me, it’s for all the rest of the students, remember only those people over the age of 21 who have a license are allowed to carry, that’s a very small percentage,” Milam said. He worries that the policy creates a class of armed students separate from the rest of the campus population.
Milam also prefers leaving campus security up to law enforcement professionals as opposed to individuals who– while licensed– may only have minimal experience working with firearms and resolving conflict.
But another professor, also teaching in a discipline tied to military and combat, feels differently.
Major Christopher Dawson, Professor of Military Science at Texas Tech, also taught classes this week. He hasn’t spoken to his students about campus carry.
“I haven’t really mentioned it, it’s not something I’ve concerned myself too much with,” Dawson said. “It is exactly the same as if I’m out in the public (outside of campus grounds), it’s still concealed carry out there and in some cases open carry.”
Dawson said he isn’t concerned by the prospect of students with concealed handguns entering his faculty office either.
“When I was deployed, when I was in an operational environment, every single person has a weapon, so it’s not a concern to me,” he said.
He doesn’t see any sense in taking issue with the law.
“That’s what it’s gonna be so I’ll adhere to the law, the biggest concern is just making sure it’s adequately marked where students are and aren’t allowed to carry,” Dawson added.
He hopes that before people judge the law they spend time researching the statistics behind campus carry laws and licensed concealed handgun owners.
For Milam, while he has worries about the law, he plans to continue teaching.
“I think what I teach is still important enough that I will work within the law and will hope that those who are carrying legally are the kinds of persons that everyone tells us that they are, good upstanding citizens, that they are taking the courses,” he said.
“I am also confident that at Texas Tech we are doing our very best to make sure this law will be carried out properly to protect our students to protect our faculty, I think our police force will be a big help in taking care of any bad situations that may occur,” Milam said. “So we want the environment to be as it was last year without this law, it will be a challenge.”