A bill filed in the Texas Legislature has sparked discussion among the San Marcos community about the hot-button issue of concealed carry on college campuses.
Senate Bill 182 was filed to the Texas Legislature on Jan. 17 by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. The bill would permit the possession of concealed handguns on college campuses. SB 182 was referred on Jan. 29 to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. Similar bills were defeated in the last two legislative sessions. SB 182, if passed, could bring changes to Texas State and other universities.
State representative Jason Isaac said he received feedback from residents about concealed carry during the last legislative session, and people are either passionately opposed to it or fully supportive of the measure. Isaac said he believes harm is done on college campuses because it is a place where people can’t exercise their Second Amendment rights.
“I have a tough time with creating locations where our Constitution does not apply,” Isaac said. “I feel like that’s what we’ve done with our concealed handgun legislation as it stands right now.”
Daniel Benitez, University Police Department captain, said while they may have issues with the bill, it will follow whatever the legislature decides.
“Just like anything else, we’re going to have issues with anything that is passed,” Benitez said. “Not everything is always up to par.”
Benitez saidwould be concerned with the possible actions of a concealed handgun license holder during an active shooter situation on campus.
“I think we have a big concern as to how much training (gun holders) get on a yearly basis,” Benitez said.
Isaac said he completed the training and classes required to obtain a concealed handgun license so he could document the process. He said it takes about 16 hours of effort and more than $300 to obtain a license.
“That’s a pretty strong commitment, both in time and finances,” Isaac said.
Benitez said the required 15 hours a year of training is “not sufficient at all.” He said UPD officers are trained for more than 100 hours and undergo active shooter training to prepare for emergency situations.
Benitez said the legislature is considering laws concerning the mental health of potential gun holders and requiring a background check before they are able to purchase this kind of weapon.
The mental health of college students is a concern for Amy Meeks, senior lecturer in the psychology department.
“I’m afraid truly (allowing concealed carry) will make it more dangerous because you’re going to have more people with the ability to act dangerously in a very split-second rash decision situation,” Meeks said.
Meeks said the majority of college students’ brains won’t be fully developed until their early- to mid-20s. She said the frontal lobes are the last part of the brain to fully develop, and they are the portions that deal with making complex decisions and rationality.
Meeks said factors such as mood, intuition and responses to others contribute to an individual’s behavior. Meeks said she does not think having handguns on campus will make anyone safer.
However, Vanessa Cortez, president of College Republicans at Texas State, said she would feel more protected on campus if people could have concealed handguns with them.
Cortez said she and the majority of the College Republicans are in support of SB 182. Cortez said carrying a handgun is an individual’s right and is a means of self-defense everyone should have.
On the other hand, Samantha Sheffield, president of College Democrats at Texas State, said the organization does not want SB 182 to pass because it is unreasonable to add more guns to the equation during emergency situations.