Diving into a politically sensitive topic, a group supporting gun rights said Monday that the recent death of a University of Texas freshman showed the folly of limiting the reach of the guns-on-campus law that will go into effect in August.
Students for Concealed Carry said the violent death of Haruka Weiser also was a reminder that college campuses are not immune from violence.
“The senselessness of this heinous crime reaffirms that we can’t try to predict when and where violence will strike. For that reason, vetted, licensed adults should enjoy the same measure of personal protection on campus that they already enjoy virtually everywhere else,” said Antonia Okafor, Southwest regional director for the group.
Critics accused the group of using a tragic situation to present an overly alarmist message.
“Somebody was tragically murdered, and I don’t think this tragedy warrants this conversation and pushing this agenda right now,” said Andrea Brauer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense.
“I know they are adamantly opposed to gun-free zones, but there doesn’t seem to be two-way respect for the majority of people on campus who do not want this law. They have fears, too — fears of having guns in classrooms, of muting classroom discourse” to avoid offending an armed person, Brauer said.
Instead of pushing for “more guns in more places,” Brauer said she hoped for a discussion acknowledging that “more bad things happen with guns, in general, than positive things.”
“That feeling of security is a good thing. I don’t discount that. But we also believe people need to know that sometimes gun ownership can make you less safe,” particularly on campuses, where suicide, domestic violence, accidents and thefts are a real risk, she said.
Weiser’s body was found at Waller Creek on April 5, two days after she was last heard from while walking home after a dance class. Meechaiel Criner was arrested on Friday; police said campus video cameras captured the 17-year-old following Weiser near where her body was found.
Students for Concealed Carry acknowledged that the campus carry law, passed last year with overwhelming support from Republicans, would not have made a difference to Weiser, who was 18. A license to carry is available only to those who are at least 21 — with limited exceptions — and who completed a state-certified firearms course.
Instead, the organization said it hoped to foster discussion on safety issues.
“College campuses, though typically safe, do play host to every form of violent crime found throughout the rest of society,” an emailed statement from the group said.
The group also criticized portions of UT’s policy on implementing the campus carry law when it goes into effect Aug. 1.
A requirement to keep a gun’s chamber empty would require time, and two hands, to chamber a round, and that could put people at risk while under attack, the group said. Placing certain areas off-limits to guns could leave gun owners vulnerable if they leave firearms behind for fear of violating a gun-free area, the group added.
Alice Tripp, a lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, agreed.
“There are no inherently safe locations. College campuses historically are predator magnets. A criminal predator actually looks for the youngest, the weakest, the most distracted. Personal protection should not have limits placed on it,” Tripp said.
UT President Gregory L. Fenves said Monday that he did not expect the slaying of Weiser to change UT’s campus carry policies.
“We want this to be a safe campus for everyone,” Fenves said. “We are continuing to implement campus carry policies I announced in February, and I don’t foresee any changes.”
Additional material from American-Statesman staff writer Mary Ann Roser.