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Remarks from Gun Free UT Rally

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Gun-Free UT rally

Today I spoke at a campus rally against the implementation of a state law that will allow concealed carry of firearms on public college campuses throughout Texas. For an hour, informed, compassionate, articulate staff and faculty at UT spoke out about the many ways this law will endanger the campus community. I was particularly struck by the words of Matt Valentine, a fellow staff member here at UT, who told us something remarkable about the Founding Fathers’ interpretation of the Second Amendment as it pertains to college campuses:

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took up the issue of campus carry in 1824, and didn’t have to look far for an originalist perspective—Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in attendance. The board resolved that “No Student shall, within the precincts of the University … keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder.”

Tragically, while our rally was in progress, a mass shooting was taking place on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Initial reports indicate ten people have died and another 20 are wounded.

Here’s a rough transcript of my remarks: Continue reading Remarks from Gun Free UT Rally

Founding fathers on campus carry in 1824

“No Student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind…

“Fighting with weapons which may inflict death, or a challenge to such fight, given or accepted, shall be punished by instant expulsion from the University, not remissible by the Faculty; and it shall be the duty of the Proctor to give information thereof to the civil magistrate, that the parties may be dealt with according to law.”

— University of Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes (October 4–5, 1824)
present were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Breckenridge, John H. Cocke, George Loyall and Joseph C. Cabell.

Graduate Student opposition to Campus Carry

I am a UT graduate student and assistant instructor. I’m signing not only in opposition to SB 11 but also in opposition to Representative Allen Fletcher, who was quoted by KXAN yesterday as saying “They can have their petition. I have mine. It’s the Texas State Legislature.”

One who so blithely dismisses those who his legislation directly affects is failing to fulfill his responsibility as a legislator. Meanwhile, Representative Donna Campbell’s tired rhetoric (“These petitions have the opposite effect of their intention and would actually make our classrooms less safe by preventing the most responsible, law-abiding citizens from carrying on campus for personal protection. Meanwhile, criminals who ignore the law will carry weapons wherever they choose.”) rings hollow to those of us who bother to search for evidence for claims of this sort. That concealed carry permit holders are somehow immune from criminal behavior is laughable. And the fact that the National Research Council report on the topic found “no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime” is conveniently ignored.  More recent studies reach the same lack-of-conclusions.

Without empirical support for the claim that concealed handguns decrease violence and without a clear mandate from the public, which is divided on the issue of campus carry — though the actual stakeholders, state university faculty, staff and students, are not nearly so divided — there is very little left to conclude but that the Texas officials who passed this law are beholden not to rational policy, nor to the citizens of their state, but only to the firearms industry, whose lobbying efforts are finally succeeding in legislating guns into classrooms, to the detriment of free inquiry and expression.

Justin Cope
from petition

Campus carry is wrong for UT faculty, staff and students

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 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.


Gun Free UT – Pushing Back against Campus Carry

“The Austin campus has …  become the epicenter of a movement”
LA Times

Despite the ever-worsening epidemic of gun violence in the U.S., the Texas legislature has passed a ‘Campus Carry’ law, Texas Senate Bill 11, allowing concealed handgun license holders to carry loaded firearms into the buildings of Texas public universities beginning in August 2016.

SB 11 also directs the university administration to establish a
“reasonable” policy regarding the carrying of concealed handguns
“after consulting with students, staff, and faculty”.

As students, staff, faculty,alumni and parents of the University of Texas, we call upon UT President Fenves to declare all of our classrooms, offices, and dormitories off limits to guns.

Our mission

  • To urge Chancellor McRaven and the UT System administration to adopt the most restrictive implementation of SB11 possible. No guns in classrooms, offices, or dormitories.
  • To work to repeal of SB11.
  • To make UT-Austin a completely gun-free campus and a safe place for free inquiry

Who we are:

Gun Free UT is a grassroots organization of UT faculty, staff, students, alumni, family, and community members committed to preserving the University of Texas-Austin as a safe and welcoming institution of higher learning. We are fighting against SB11, the “campus carry” law that allows license holders who are 21 or older to carry concealed handguns on university campuses starting August 1, 2016.

Gun Free UT agrees with President Fenves, Chancellor McRaven, and the thousands of UT faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni who have protested SB11: Guns do not belong on this or any other campus. Our mission is to educate the community about the realities of gun violence and gun safety in the hopes of overturning SB11 and all other laws that permit weapons on campus. Hook ‘em, don’t shoot ‘em!

Armed with Reason!