Texas Southern University’s deputy police chief, Remon Green, has a message for students who might consider carrying concealed handguns once Texas’s new law permitting them on campus goes into effect: “Don’t try to be a hero."
Green and a panel of top TSU officials met Wednesday night during a campus carry forum to discuss how TSU will implement the state's new campus-carry law, which goes into effect August 1, 2016. With four shootings in six weeks at the school, students and faculty have worried that permitting guns on campus could only make things worse.
Since late August, two people have died and four have been wounded in these shootings, all on or near campus. Most recently, on Friday, two students were shot — one of them killed — at an apartment complex close to campus, leading administrators to lock down the campus and call off classes. Just hours earlier, on the night of October 8, shots were fired at the same apartment complex. And two days before that, a man was shot while leaving an event at the campus museum. As a result, the university began enforcing an 11 p.m. curfew in dorms, added three patrol shifts to the dorms and authorized random room checks, among other things. Letting students carry around guns could undermine those precautions, many on the panel said.
When one student asked TSU President John Rudley what his opinion was about the new law, Rudley put it frankly. “I was furious about it, because I knew the impact it would have not just on Texas Southern University but all institutions,” he said. “Our primary goal is education. We shouldn’t be introducing guns into an educational environment. It makes no sense to me.”
Students at the University of Texas have invited thousands of students across campus and the state to protest the law next year by carrying dildos around instead of guns, naming the initiative #CocksNotGlocks. While the law does not allow public universities to opt out, what it does allow them to do is restrict guns in certain areas or buildings on campus. TSU’s new 14-member Campus Carry Committee will start deciding what those restricted areas will be, based on input from students and the community gathered through surveys and at public meetings, according to the committee’s chair, Andrew Hughey.
The University of Houston’s Campus Carry Work Group is doing nearly the exact same thing and has already begun issuing surveys. Chairwoman Marcilynn Burke, associate dean and professor at the UH Law Center, said examples of places that
would *could be off-limits are science buildings that contain laboratories, or offices where arguments about disciplinary measures are likely to cause high tension.
But at last night’s meeting, one student supporter of the campus-carry law, James Clark, questioned how that would even work. “I’m not going to walk all the way across campus with a concealed weapon on me, look at a building, walk back to my car and put the gun away, then come back to the building,” he said. “It’s a passive way of making people not express their rights.”
Clark went on to lambaste the university for putting together what he called a biased anti-gun panel that did not properly educate the students about their rights or the purpose of the law. He questioned why the university was focusing so much on how to restrict guns on campus while so many other safety precautions were not in place — even simple things like lighted walkways at night. While Green and a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent briefed the students on what to do in the case of a mass shooting, urging them not to take out their gun and try to save the day because an officer might confuse them as the target, Clark told Green he wouldn’t “go searching around, trying to be a hero,” but that he'd rather protect himself than wait on security. Clark argued he could “probably assess the situation and handle a threat better than most of your officers.”
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Other students, like Trevor Clark (no relation), aren’t buying the self-protection argument. Clark, a senior finance major who is a member of TSU's student government, pointed to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin and questionable police shootings of unarmed black men, saying, “Self-defense is subjective."
“I can feel threatened because you’re looking at me a certain way — so I pull my gun out," Clark said. "Little petty arguments happen in college. You have alcohol. You have irresponsible students. And you’re opening the door to guns…I just don’t think it’s smart.”
The law will go into effect on the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower shooting, when a 25-year-old gunman shot 43 people, leaving 13 of them dead.
Clarification 10/19/15 at 11:30 a.m.: UH's Marcilynne Burke just emailed us to stress that the university has not made any concrete decisions about where guns will be banned, and that the examples she listed were merely possibilities. So, apparently students might still be able to bring guns into a science lab once campus-carry kicks in next year. UH hasn't yet made a decision on that.