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Texas State faculty discuss campus carry

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Faculty senators and department liaisons discussed Senate Bill 11 Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation, known as the campus carry bill was passed by the 84th Legislature this year. Starting Fall 2016, licensed individuals will be allowed to carry concealed handguns on public university campuses.

As Texas State officials prepare for campus carry to be implemented, President Denise Trauth has drafted a committee of faculty to determine the safest way to implement the legislation.

Officials from affected universities are allowed to ban guns in certain campus buildings if there is a “substantial reason,” said Michel Conroy, Faculty Senate chair. The committee is tasked with determining which buildings at Texas State will be deemed gun-free zones.

“The areas cannot amount to a total prohibition of campus carry,” Conroy said. “The university system has cautioned that less is more when it comes to these ‘carved-out’ zones.”

Conroy said officials within the Texas State University System are worried legislators will amend SB11 to restrict gun-free zones if they feel the spirit of the law is not being enforced by universities.

She said the faculty task force plans to recommend the addition of safe storage locations in the dorms and at a central location on campus. The storage areas would be for carrying visitors who want to store their arms in order to go into a gun-free zone on campus.

Conroy said there will be a large cost associated with establishing safe storage locations.

Chad Booth, chemistry and biochemistry liaison, said officials in Idaho, a state smaller than Texas, have estimated more than $4.7 million has gone toward providing safe storage areas.

Farzan Irani, communication disorders liaison, said SB11 is unclear because it states that licensed campus visitors can carry a gun “on or about their person.”

Irani said in the communication disorders department, parents bring children into the office for clinical services. She is worried that a child could “get ahold of” a gun someone might leave in an unattended bag.

Ted Hindson, political science liaison, said the faculty should voice their opinions, even if nothing can be done about the legislation at present.

“The time for faculty to voice their opinions was the last election,” Conroy said.

Ruby Kishan, finance and economics liaison, asked if Texas State would join the University of Texas if school officials take the campus carry legislation to court.

Dana Garcia, biology senator, said campus carry is not infringing on any constitutional law. She said SB11 is not legalizing assault with a deadly weapon.

“I do not want to negotiate with a student when they come to my class to find out if they are carrying,” Kishan said. “I’m going to announce in my classes that everyone gets an ‘A.’ Talk about grade inflation. It will happen then.”

Sarah Blue, geography liaison, said campus carry could inhibit the First Amendment. Conroy said she agrees, and the legislation could put a “cold chill” on free speech.

“We should have to option to mobilize. There should be a working group that asks, ‘what can we do to protest against this?’” said Scott Bowman, science and engineering senator.

Hunter Close, physics liaison, said he does not believe the law will increase the possibility of mass shootings occurring. He said some of the concerns the senators and liaisons voiced were unreasonable.

Hindson said it does not matter if the law does not increase the possibility of mass shooting. To him, it only matters if one person is killed because of the implementation of campus carry.

Garcia said the psychological effect of the bill on the faculty, even if not reasonable, is something that needs to be considered.

Bowman said as an African-American faculty member, he is concerned he could get shot if he was mistaken for someone else.

“This is not unreasonable,” Bowman said. “We see trained police officers do this. What about some 22-year-old that has sat in four classes and thinks he is ready for something to happen on campus?”

Conroy said the battle against campus carry, if waged, would likely not be finished before the legislation’s implementation next fall. She said the task force will continue to plan for safe implementation, even if the faculty chooses to protest this bill.