Thursday, October 08, 2015

Campus Carry

Recent movements in the Texas legislature have made campus carry -- that is, concealed carry permits for buildings on university campuses -- a hotly debated issue here. The current legislation will come into effect in August 2016, and at least one UT professor has a response to it:

Economics professor emeritus Daniel Hamermesh will withdraw from his position next fall, citing concerns with campus carry legislation.

The law will allow the concealed carry of guns in campus buildings beginning Aug. 1, 2016. Hamermesh said he is not comfortable with the risk of having a student shoot at him in class. He teaches a course with 475 students enrolled, according to a letter Hamermesh wrote Sunday to UT President Gregory Fenves.

“With a huge group of students, my perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has been substantially enhanced by the concealed-carry law,” Hamermesh wrote in the letter.

As some have noted, this is a rather baffling response, since anyone who wanted to shoot a college professor could already just walk in and do so; yes, they would be breaking the law to do it, but if they are actually out to shoot someone that seems hardly likely to be a deterrent. I could see worrying about the possibility of accidents, but disgruntled students are not going to be stopped by policies on paper. In addition, getting the relevant permit requires that one be 21 years old and have undergone training and background checks; it's a bit of a rigmarole to get the permit.

This is, of course, Texas. It has been a perpetual tradition that state legislators can be armed in their office or on the floor of their legislative chamber; and, in fact, anyone who is willing to go through the hassle can get a concealed firearms permit and stroll into the Texas State Capitol with a handgun -- it's actually easier to get through security that way, since by declaring your firearm and showing your permit you can bypass the metal detectors. Very famously it's quite common for lobbyists to get concealed gun permits despite not having any guns, just to make it easier to get in and out. Campus carry, not having the backing of tradition, is more controversial; Texans in general split about evenly on it, although it is very unpopular with students and faculties at universities.

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