Campus carry law draws jeers, cheers at UT forum

A new state law expanding the rights of concealed handgun license holders to carry weapons on public college campuses received mostly impassioned criticism at a University of Texas forum Wednesday evening. Other speakers strongly defended the law.

A 19-member panel established by UT President Gregory L. Fenves is charged with making recommendations to him on how to implement Senate Bill 11. State law for 20 years has allowed license holders to carry concealed handguns on campus grounds.

SB 11 expands that right to include buildings, but it allows universities to carve out limited gun-free zones — provided, however, that such rules do not “generally prohibit” license holders from carrying their guns on campus.

Critics of the law urged UT to take a highly restrictive approach, with a ban on guns in classrooms, faculty offices and dorms. One such speaker was Sherry Austin, whose daughter is a resident assistant in a campus dorm.

“I fear for her safety,” Austin said.

Defenders of the law said the critics’ fears and concerns were overblown.

“We are not vigilantes,” said Justin Stone, a first-year law student and concealed carry license holder. “We are not a danger to this campus.”

Steve Goode, a UT law professor who chairs the advisory panel, said 2,542 comments have been received online. Counting those, as well as comments during Wednesday’s forum, “The overwhelming majority of comments we have received oppose Senate Bill 11,” he said.

The law takes effect August 2016 for public universities and a year later for community colleges. It also applies to private colleges, but they can opt out altogether.

A second public forum will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Texas Union at the southeast corner of Guadalupe and 24th streets.

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