by Catherine Arjet
On August 1st, the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower Shooting which left 17 people dead and 32 injured, Texas campus carry went into effect, legalizing both open and concealed carry at all public Texas colleges and universities, even those that expressly forbid it. Included in that list is the University of Texas at Austin where that first shooting took place exactly fifty years earlier. As with any new gun legislation, this created a number of issues.
As we have all experienced, during particularly lively class discussions (especially about controversial topics), emotions can often run high. This is part of the exchange of ideas and viewpoints that makes college so great. However, when you couple this with an armed student body, it presents a safety issue. In an effort to continue to allow theses discussions, keep everyone safe and implement the state mandated campus carry rules, for professors on how to prevent shootings in their classrooms. This includes suggestions like “Encourage ‘Buddy System’ for return to parking areas following contentious class sessions and arrange security escorts when deemed necessary,“ “inform colleagues/chair in advance of the date the [sensitive or concerning] material will be covered and consider the need for security monitoring and/or having a police presence nearby on that day” and, if a class looked like it could lead to violence, to consider modifying in future class meetings. While Texas State probably does want to continue to allow professors to lead their classes in the same way they were before campus carry, this document shows that they cannot while still maintaining student safety.
So why do I, a college student in Mississippi, care what’s happening with Texas gun laws? Because over the past few years Mississippi has been rapidly relaxing its gun laws, and after the guns in church law earlier this year (which allowed people without licenses to carry guns in church), campus carry seems like the next logical progression. Currently, Mississippi allows a kind of half campus carry where those with enhanced permits (basically a special concealed carry permit that allows the holder to carry concealed firearms in places most people cannot) are allowed to bring guns on campuses, however, since these guns must be concealed, it makes it harder to bring in the large firearms with larger magazine capacities that are responsible for most of the deadliest school shootings. However, Mississippi could very easily expand that to allow open carry for all colleges and universities across the state. This could be disastrous. Let Texas’s actions stand as a warning to Mississippi; if we want college to be a time when young people are able to express their thoughts on issues (even controversial ones) and be exposed to new ones, we cannot allow our students and professors to be hampered in their discussions by fear of gun violence.