21 February 2011

Lauren Kelley : Packing Heat on Texas Campuses

Texas Governor Rick Perry fires a six shooter at an event in Fort Worth. Photo by Rodger Mallison / AP.

Pretty scary:
Texas about to make it legal

to carry guns on college campuses

By Lauren Kelley / AlterNet / February 21, 2011

From the annals of bad ideas: the Texas legislature is poised to pass a bill that will make it legal for both students and professors to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, in the name of self-defense.

From AP:
More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he's in favor of the idea.

Texas has become a prime battleground for the issue because of its gun culture and its size, with 38 public universities and more than 500,000 students. It would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law. Colorado gives colleges the option and several have allowed handguns.
This move isn't a huge surprise, since Texas is clearly one of the more gun-friendly states in the country (the governor "sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs," for goodness sake). But the measure has drawn its fair share of criticism, most notably from the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting -- a group that knows a thing or two about the consequences of carrying guns on campuses. Some of the Virginia Tech victims traveled to the Texas state Capitol on Thursday:
Colin Goddard, who was shot four times during the Virginia Tech rampage and survived by playing dead, urged Texas lawmakers on Thursday not to allow concealed handguns in college classrooms. He and John Woods, another former Virginia Tech student whose girlfriend was among the more than 30 people killed in the April 2007 carnage, were at the Capitol to fight against guns on campus bills pending in the House and Senate....

I was there that day. It was the craziest day of my life with one person walking around with two guns," Goddard said. "I can't even imagine what it would have been like with multiple students and multiple guns."
Another group against the bill? Leaders of Texas' own community colleges.

Collin College chief of police Ed Leathers says he is a supporter of Texas' concealed handgun laws, and even has a concealed handgun license himself. But he adds that “Our officers are trained to go immediately to the location of where shots are reported to be fired, and they’re trained not to ask any questions but stop the person who they identify with a weapon” -- possibly causing confusion about who the criminal is, which could have tragic consequences.

San Jacinto College spokesperson Teri Fowlé adds, "If you have students who are constantly wary of who is carrying a gun and who is not, how does that facilitate education?”

[Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. This article was distributed by AlterNet.]

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