Students, faculty rally against campus carry, citing safety worries

University of Texas students and faculty urged the administration to ban guns in as many places on campus as possible, arguing at a Tuesday rally on the West Mall that more guns on campus will ultimately make the university less safe.

The rally, organized by the group Gun Free UT, denounced the new law giving those with concealed handgun licenses the ability to carry a weapon throughout university buildings, also known as campus carry.

The law’s opponents want university officials to write rules that are as restrictive as possible, while gun-rights supporters want few, if any, restrictions regarding where concealed handguns may be carried.

A few faculty members at the rally called for a period of public comment during the time that UT President Gregory L. Fenves will review any proposed university policy.

Those attending the rally — UT police estimated about 150 people — repeatedly cited studies and data indicating that places with looser gun laws do not have less gun violence. Some also offered their personal worries about having more armed students on campus.

“I’m a gun owner,” said government professor Bryan Jones. “I probably got my first .22 around age 12. But I oppose guns in the workplace and displayed around the university.” As a social scientist, he added, “I respect the evidence. … I fear panic in the classroom.”

A UT student who lost her 6-year-old brother in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., spoke at the rally.

The Texas legislation “essentially decided that Second Amendment rights are more important than the safety of our students and faculty,” Danielle Vabner said.

While there wasn’t an organized counter-rally of campus carry supporters, those who supported the measure were present.

Abigail McClane, who lives in the Killeen area and whose son will be attending UT next year, had a concealed handgun at the rally. She supports the measure, pointing out that the law does not allow her son to carry on campus until he is 21.

“I want to know there are other people in the classroom who will protect him,” McClane said.

Gun Free UT co-chairwoman, history professor Joan Neuberger, said the data does not back up that sentiment.

“I sympathize with people who are afraid of mass shootings, but there is no evidence that students with guns — or even faculty with guns — will be able to protect themselves against a mass shooter,” Neuberger said.

Gun Free UT members pointed to an FBI study that found only one of the 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 ended when an armed civilian exchanged fire with the shooter. In two incidents when concealed handgun license holders have attempted to intervene, one armed person was killed and one nearly shot the wrong person, Gun Free members said, citing media reports about incidents in Las Vegas and Tucson.

Proponents of the legislation have pointed to a study this year from Texas A&M University, published in the Journal of Criminology, which found that there was no connection between allowing concealed weapons and crime rates. The presence of guns did not increase or decrease crime, the study found.

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