AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Concealed handguns would be prohibited inside University of Texas dorms in most cases — but allowed in classrooms — under recommendations sent to the school president Thursday under the state’s pending campus-carry law.
Public universities were told to draw gun-zone maps, but ordered not to ban weapons from an entire campus, under a law taking effect in August that will allow people with concealed handgun licenses to bring their weapons into school buildings. Lawmakers approved the law despite strong opposition from students and faculty, including some who threatened to quit or sue if guns were allowed in classrooms.
Even University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven — a former admiral and head of U.S. special forces who directed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden — has said it would make his Austin campus less safe.
A university spokeswoman said McRaven wasn’t immediately available to comment on the recommendations. In a statement from the school, deputy Chancellor David Daniel said the “ultimate goal is to comply with the law, while providing the safest possible environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors to UT campuses.”
The recommendations need to be reviewed by the campus’ president, Greg Fenves, before he sends them to the Board of Regents for approval.
The working group that developed the recommendations for the Austin campus was comprised of faculty, staff, students, alumni and a parent representative, including some gun owners and concealed-carry license holders. The group released a statement saying members agreed with the “overwhelming sentiment on campus” to keep guns out of classrooms, but ultimately decided to allow it.
University law professor Steve Goode, who led the working group, said banning guns from classrooms would be considered a blanket ban specifically prohibited by the new law.
“Keeping them out of on-campus residence halls is a tiny sliver of our population. Classrooms affect 50,000 students,” Goode said.
In banning guns from dorms, the group noted that most residents are under 21, the minimum age to get a concealed handgun permit. But visiting parents with concealed-gun licenses would be allowed to carry. The recommendations also suggest banning guns from campus health centers, child care facilities, certain laboratories and activities involving children.
License holders would have to keep guns in a holster. The panel decided against a requirement to keep guns in lockers, saying that increased the chance of accidental discharge.
State law already bans guns from college sporting events.
The flagship campuses of the Texas A&M and Texas Tech university systems have not yet released their campus gun maps.
State lawmakers approved the campus guns measure in May. Private universities were allowed to maintain their bans.
Advocates of the new law insist the right to carry guns on campus falls under the Second Amendment, and they call it a critical self-defense measure. Opponents and supporters cite the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas, when Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded dozens more from his perch atop the campus clock tower.
Texas is among eight states with provisions allowing concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses, along with Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.
Release of the University of Texas gun recommendations came a day after pro-gun rights groups announced they would move a planned mock mass shooting on Saturday to an area off campus. The groups initially said they would conduct the protest — with cardboard guns and fake blood on “victims” — on campus, but were warned by school officials they could be charged with criminal trespassing.