University of Houston professor Christine Ehlig-Economides shudders at the thought of students carrying concealed handguns in her classroom.
"I see no evidence of how carrying a weapon, concealed or otherwise, makes anyone safer except on a battlefield," Ehlig-Economides said from a podium at City Hall on Wednesday morning. "Increasing the number of people with guns turns an otherwise civil urban environment into a battlefield."
Texas's campus carry law, SB11, takes effect August 1. The law will allow gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons to college campuses. Private schools can opt out, but public institutions — like UH — cannot.
At a news conference, Ehlig-Economides joined Councilman Dwight Boykins, UH students and the Houston Police Department in calling on Mayor Sylvester Turner to create a task force to ensure a safe debut of campus carry.
"My office looks forward to working with the student leadership and any of those who are serious about protecting the well-being of the kids in our great state of Texas," said Boykins, whose district includes the campuses of UH and Texas Southern University.
Andrew Yoo, a UH graduate and intern with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, stressed the group's desire for such a task force to include proponents and opponents of campus carry. He said opponents will not try to challenge the legality of campus carry, but instead want to ensure the safety of students.
Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Mattie Provost said local police agencies want to ensure a safe start to campus carry, because the training needed to secure a Texas concealed carry permit is "very, very minimal."
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"With all the violence that's been going on lately, not just in Houston but across the nation, we certainly want to be mindful of those students who are carrying weapons," Provost said. "I totally agree that we need to come together and talk and educate our students."
The press conference did not include any supporters of campus carry, and several speakers criticized the law. Yoo said he invited pro-gun advocates to join the group at City Hall, but declined to say if any expressed interest in doing so.
Antonio Arellano of Houston Millennials, a young professionals group, offered a grim reminder of the importance of regulating guns on college campuses. In his remarks, Arellano noted the law will take effect 50 years to the day Charles Whitman shot and killed 49 people at the University of Texas, one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
Darian Ward, the mayor's spokeswoman, said Turner is attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and has no comment on Boykins's news conference. In 2015, when he was still a member of the Texas House of Representatives, Turner voted against campus carry.