State bill would allow students to carry guns on campus

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    The university will ensure that all licensed gun holders undergo the necessary training if the Texas Legislature passes a bill that would allow students with concealed carry licenses to bring their weapons on campus at public and private universities, a university official said.

    Don Mills, vice chancellor for student affairs, said that while the university would obey the law if it was passed, it would ensure that members of the student staff like resident assistants would have the appropriate training to handle a potentially violent situation. He said the university would make sure that students who carry weapons have valid permits.

    The bill, which is in the process of being drafted, will be announced in the Texas legislature in a few weeks, said state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a Republican from San Antonio and a probable sponsor of the bill.

    “It is my intention that no campus be vulnerable to a madman’s attack,” Wentworth said. “I don’t want to wake up some morning and read in the paper that 32 Texas kids were picked off like sitting ducks on some college campus because nobody could defend themselves.”

    Mills said that if the law is passed and allows private universities to choose whether or not students can carry weapons, the university would maintain its ban on weapons.

    Sgt. Kelly Ham of TCU Police said the bill could endanger students rather than protect them.

    Ham said law enforcement training has changed since the deadly shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Police are now trained to eliminate a threat rather than to contain it, he said.

    “If we go into a building where we’ve got somebody shooting at people and we see a student with a pistol in his hand, he’s going to be a target because we don’t know if he’s the bad guy or the good guy,” Ham said.

    Currently, even if a student possesses a concealed carry license, he or she is not allowed to bring a gun on campus, Ham said. A student must turn the gun into TCU Police for storage.

    J.C. Williams, assistant chief of police, said he does not think the bill will pass because of the trend of similar bills failing to make it into law.

    Chris Simcho, a junior strategic communication major, said he thinks the proposition is not a bad idea and that bearing arms is a fundamental American right, but not all students have the knowledge necessary to correctly operate a firearm.

    “There’s a certain level of training and maturity that’s required for somebody to be responsible with a firearm,” he said.

    Simcho, who was a member of the Marine Corps for four years, said the required two-day course is insufficient training. He said firearm safety and the capability to fire at a target should be required training.

    Simcho said that even though he plans to get a concealed carry license, it would mostly be for traveling purposes.

    Currently, an individual must be 21 years old to apply for a concealed carry license, Ham said.

    Mills said the difference between TCU and Virginia Tech is that Virginia law at the time did not allow the university to take action against an unstable student whereas university policy allows TCU to ban a mentally unstable student from school until he or she is cleared by a psychiatrist.

    Concealed carry training should also contain role-playing situations where students are taught to handle different situations, Mills said.

    “When you have the ability to use lethal force, you also are putting yourself in a position where you could be committing a crime,” Mills said.

    Mills said background checks and psychological evaluations should be required. He said he is mostly concerned that students who are allowed to have a lethal weapon on campus could be more likely to harm themselves rather than use the weapon to protect themselves or others.

    The idea that handguns will promote safety makes the assumption that campus is a dangerous place to be, Mills said.

    Even the most basic rights have limitations, he said.

    “I don’t think the right to bear arms is an unlimited right just like the right to free speech is not an unlimited right,” he said. “There are certain instances and circumstances where public safety limits an absolute right to bear arms.”