According to an FBI report published in 2013, unarmed civilians shut down more active shooter situations than armed civilians did in 160 scenarios between 2000 and 2013.
Story by Chad Lyle
Illustration by Ryan Hicks
The State of Texas’ Campus Carry law, which allows concealed firearms to be carried at public universities, has never been popular among students at the University of Texas at Austin. One example was the viral Cocks Not Glocks protest organized by Jessica Jin in 2016, where students carried dildos at a rally to decry the fact that their presence on campus was illegal but firearms were not. More recently, UT sophomore Simone Harry started a petition on MoveOn.org to end Campus Carry. In case students needed any further reason to be concerned about the law: two handguns were found — on two consecutive days — left on the floor of women’s restrooms on campus. Each was later claimed by an individual with a license to carry. The first gun was left behind by a student, while the second belonged to a non-student from a conference at the Commons Learning Center.
In the wake of America’s most recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, a fresh tragedy amid a sustained epidemic, President Trump and others suggested that high school teachers take up arms in order to defend their students, even incentivizing armed teachers with possible pay increases. At UT, and in fact every public university in Texas, both students and teachers are allowed to pack heat if they’d like to in response to such a threat. The increasingly unpopular status of Campus Carry prompts the question: Is the law as effective a deterrent of crime as its advocates claim?
First, a refresher on the specifics of the law. Though Texas residents are permitted to openly carry their firearms in some locations, this remains prohibited on the property of public universities. What Campus Carry legislation does permit is concealed possession of a firearm by anyone who has obtained a handgun license. In order to get one of those, you need to be 21 years old with no history of felony convictions. Of course, shotguns and rifles do not count as handguns, and therefore don’t fall under the protection of the law when it comes to carrying guns on your person in public places. Any private entity, including private universities, can ban firearms from their property so long as they display a 30.06 sign (which gets its name from section Section 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code).
Formally called Senate Bill 11, Campus Carry was passed by the Texas Legislature in May 2015. The following month it was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, along with a sibling bill authorizing Open Carry at a gun range in Pflugerville. Notably, UT System Chancellor Chancellor Bill McRaven made his opposition to the measure known throughout its formulation and eventual passage. A Breitbart headline lauding Campus Carry spoke to the feeling among many proponents that the practice could prevent mass shootings: “11 States with No Mass Shootings, No Campus Crimes by Concealed Carriers.”
According to an FBI report published in 2013, unarmed civilians shut down more active shooter situations than armed civilians did in 160 scenarios between 2000 and 2013. “In 21 incidents (13.1 percent), the situation ended after unarmed citizens safely and successfully restrained the shooter,” the report says. “In five incidents (3.1 percent), the shooting ended after armed individuals who were not law enforcement personnel exchanged gunfire with the shooters.” To be clear, the question of whether or not Campus Carry is an effective deterrent of violence is separate from the question of whether or not it deserves to be recognized as a civil liberty.
The good news is that UT has not sustained a mass shooting event since Aug. 1, 1966 (Campus Carry intentionally went into effect on that same date in 2016). However, if that day comes, it is uncertain whether Campus Carry will provide an appropriate means of defense from such a formidable threat.