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Guns allowed on campuses

The Texas legislature is proposing a new bill to allow concealed handguns on public and private college campuses.

The Senate Bill 11 “to the carrying of concealed handguns on the campuses of and certain other locations associated with institutions of higher education” has been passed through Senate and now is taken to the House. In translation students and staff will be able to carry a licensed concealed handgun at all times at any college or university. If passed by the House, this Act takes effect September 1, 2015.

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The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 20 to 10 and, if passed through the House, both public and private colleges and universities will have to abide by the bill. However, Individual campuses will have a say on whether to allow handguns in residential buildings. Campuses will not be able to set their own regulations to prohibit license holders from carrying on campus. The legislature has even acknowledge that there will be cost for community colleges due to new updated policies that the colleges will have to fix.

Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Grandbury took the lead on the bill and it is co-sponsored by 19 of the 20 representatives in the senate. The bill has been pushed before but fell short due to strong concerns from police chiefs, university officials, parents and students.

“I highly support campus carry,” said Robert Quates, employee and PR representative at Tyler’s Lock and Loaded Indoor shooting range. “The big thing is a lot of people on campus, if you’re not allowed to carry a firearm, the crazy individual that does come to the school and does bring firearms, you have no way to protect yourself.”

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At Tyler Junior College there are actual police officers and security ambassadors who are always patrolling to ensure the safety of the school, staff, and students.

“Yes, there are campus law enforcement. It takes 3 to 10 minutes to get to your location. So an individual to be able to conceal carry or open carry on campus to protect themselves and protect other students, I highly support,” said Quates.

With new bills, comes new policies for the school itself.

“Any time there is a new law, there are funds tied to it that ultimately somebody has to pay,” said Tom Johnson, the Assistant Vice President at TJC. Developing policy costs additional money, as well as additional employee training, advanced checks on students on campus, and new residential policies.

“The employees will be required to go through scenario-based trainings,” said Dr. Metke, President of TJC, when explaining the policies the school would need to enforce for employees who wish to conceal carry on campus.

Another major cost comes from having to speak with the school’s attorneys to develop the right policies to enforce for the school. Once proposed Dr. Metke and Dr. Johnson will address the Board of Trustees in order to make the smooth transition for the school that everyone agrees on.

“We play with the hand we are dealt,” said Dr. Metke.

Since TJC is a two-year school, the concern of how the new law will affect the school is not as big as it is for four-year university. In order to have a CHL (concealed handgun license) one needs to be age 21 or older. 63 percent of the student body at TJC is still under the age 21 by the time they transfer to other universities. In order to receive a gun license, there are initial fees, fingerprinting is required, criminal background checks are done, document are filled out, and certification classes are taken.

Unfortunately even with the requirements needed to own a handgun or any other gun for that matter, people’s actions are uncontrollable and unpredictable. 47 percent of school shootings occur at institutions of higher education. Most stay imprinted in the minds of people, like 2007’s Virginia Tech where 30 people were killed, and Northern Illinois University in 2008 where 21 were left wounded and 5 killed. (http://collegestats.org).

“It is quite common knowledge that there has been an increase of violence on college campuses. All we can do is make sure our campus is as safe as it can be and meet the requirements of the law,” said Johnson.

“Allowing guns on campus would put the student body in harm’s way,” said Autria Compton, current student at TJC. “I don’t want to be in class or walking around campus knowing that at any given time someone has a gun and, if made upset, uses it,” said Compton. While the future if the bill is passed is uncertain, faith must be shown in the self-control of others and the security by and of the campuses for the safety of staff and student.

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