The Texas Legislature soon may legalize the possession of concealed handguns on college campuses.
Two different bills are being processed. One bill would allow private universities to make their own rules about allowing guns on campus, but the other bill would not allow the private institutions to opt out.
By state law, it is illegal for anyone, license holder or not, to bring a gun into a campus building or sporting venue. ACU’s policy regarding weapons is even more restrictive than state law: It prohibits students, faculty and staff from having any guns on campus at all. That includes residence halls, University Park apartments, office buildings and parking lots.
When news of the proposed bills became public, some students, faculty and staff across the state began to panic, assuming there soon would be guns in every classroom, said Jimmy Ellison, chief of police for the ACU Police Department.
“I understand their concern, but the reality of it is that, statistically speaking, at a campus the size of ACU, there would most likely be very few people that would go through the licensing process and who would choose to carry a gun onto campus,” Ellison said.
Roughly 5,000 students attend ACU. The law requires individuals to be more than 21 years of age to carry a gun, which makes about half of ACU’s student population ineligible to obtain a concealed-carry license. Of those 2,500 remaining, a little more than half are female. Statistically, females pursue concealed handgun licenses at a lower rate than males, which shrinks the pool even more. Overall, a very limited number of individuals would be interested in carrying a gun onto campus, Ellison said.
“I don’t have any great fear that you would have any irresponsible display or any irresponsible actions with a handgun from a concealed handgun license holder,” Ellison said.
Christopher Sisk, junior accounting major from San Antonio, was a member of Students For Concealed Carry and has looked into getting a concealed handgun license for himself.
“They have strict organized tests which you have to go through that are very challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally,” Sisk said. “If you fail any part of it, you fail the test, and you can’t attempt to take it again for another 9 months.”
Concealed carry on campus attempts to give students the ability to defend themselves against an assailant, Sisk said.
And private status cannot guarantee a safer college campus, Ellison said.
“It is not correct to assume that because we are a private institution that we’re necessarily any safer than a public institution or less exposed to risk or danger,” Ellison said, “because there are troubled students and troubled individuals in public settings and in private settings.”
If the bill passes that allows private universities to decide on their own policies, Ellison said he believes the ACU administration would consult with faculty, staff and students to determine the general consensus, proceeding to make a decision in the best interest of the university. However, he said he would not expect any great changes to the current policy pertaining to the possession of handguns on campus if either of the bills pass the legislature.