The following appeared in the Austin American Statesman on September 30, 2015
By Joan Neuberger and Ellen Spiro – Special to the American-Statesman
We write today on behalf of Gun Free UT, an organization of UT Austin faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents who oppose guns in our classrooms, offices, dormitories and on our campus. We are organizing in opposition to Senate Bill 11, also known as “campus carry,” which could allow loaded guns inside our buildings.
Twelve Texas legislators sponsored this law supposedly to make us safer; but most recent studies say that more guns make us less safe. No mass murder or campus shooting has ever been stopped by an armed student or professor. Researchers at Texas A&M University have shown that concealed handgun licenses have had no impact on crime rates.
The chancellor of the UT System, former Navy Seal Admiral William McRaven, said “the presence of handguns … will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”
This semester, a female student was stopped by campus police in the Student Activities Center before she could take her life with a handgun. Studies show that over half of college students contemplate committing suicide — and that the presence of a gun in a household increases the chance of suicide by firearm.
While the gun lobby and those legislators who passed SB 11 are concerned about the Second Amendment, the professors, staff, and students at UT Austin are fighting to protect our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. A university is a space for dialogue, debate and dissent. It must be a safe space, free from the threat of violence and intimidation. Right now, 150 UT Austin professors have signed a petition saying they will refuse to allow guns in their classrooms.
By passing SB 11, the Texas legislature has put our administrators in the unenviable position of implementing a law that they opposed. We are asking that administrators interpret the law in the strictest way possible, allowing guns in the fewest possible buildings. And we are asking the public join us in opposition to campus carry.
Students should have a say about what happens on their own campus. A petition from UT Students Opposing Campus Carry has more than 5,000 signatures. The UT Austin Student Government passed a resolution officially opposing guns on the UT-Austin campus.
Student body presidents from UT Austin, Texas Tech, the University of North Texas, UTSA, and UT-Dallas, signed a letter urging lawmakers to allow their universities to opt out of campus carry legislation.
The Texas Association of College and University Police Administrators opposes campus carry, citing the uncertainties of college life and the complications it poses for police officers attempting to diffuse potentially violent situations.
We have created a petition opposing guns in our classrooms that currently has more than 2,000 signatures. Please search for Gun Free UT on Change.org to sign our petition.
Please join us this Thursday at noon at UT’s West Mall to protest campus carry and the legislators who voted for it.
Neuberger is a history professor and Spiro is a professor of radio-TV-film at the University of Texas at Austin. They are co-chairs of Gun Free UT.