Guns in Classrooms: Report from the Trenches

 The National Movement for Guns in Classrooms

  • The trenches of the national battle over gun control are now in UT-Austin. But a wide coalition is needed to counter the growing national movement  for “guns in classrooms,” including an alliance of flagship state universities. U-Kansas Lawrence, U-Florida Gainesville, and U-Wisconsin Madison should not wait (as we did in UT-Austin) to build state-wide firewalls. Apathy will lead to regret. Organize Now!
  • Classroom-carry is already  a reality in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, and will soon take effect in Texas. Similar legislation might soon spread to Wisconsin, and Florida. Oregon, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin already allow concealed carry but give each school some discretion to set limits.
  • Supporters of campus carry rely on several  assertions–all of which sound reasonable, but all of which are misleading or false.

  • Colleges with classroom-carry have already witnessed numerous cases of negligence resulting in injury. Not a single case of use of concealed weapons to fight crime, however, has been reported.
  • Most impacted  by the law will be sectors of campuses that deal with controversial subjects. Licensed carriers in the state of Texas are, by and large, white males.  Classroom-carry will disproportionately affect minorities (in addition to foreign nationals), not only because they are targets of “the good guy with guns” trope, central to the concealed-carry movement, but also because classroom subjects that involve minorities (and are taught by minorities) tend to be controversial. Classroom carry could potentially threaten minority students and faculty into silence.

UT-Austin:  Report from the Trenches:

  • At this writing, at  UT-Austin:  900 faculty members distributed in 76 departments (including two Fellows of the National Science Academy); seventeen  (17) departments, centers, and schools,; 1100 graduate students; and hundreds of parents have signed separate petitions opposing guns in classrooms and dorms. There is a general petition that has so far gathered 7,700 signatures. Six national professional organizations have issued statements warning the University of the threat that guns in classrooms and dorms pose to public safety and academic freedom.
  • Many who oppose campus carry are afraid of voicing their views in public, in fear of  threats by the  pro-gun anonymous mob. It should be noted that the statement of the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies on classroom carry includes this chilling conclusion: “with the near unanimous endorsement of faculty.” There are no names. African Americans in this country know first-hand the individual costs of having good guys with guns around. In many campuses across the state, there is already a sense of intimidation that thwarts the expression of  dissent — and guns have yet to arrive in classrooms.
  • Texas campuses’ prestige will be compromised. National professional organizations have censured UT’s adoption of classroom carry.  One UT-Austin faculty has already resigned. We know of a couple of donors who have made their pledge to endow a chair in the sciences, at UT-Austin, contingent on banning guns in classrooms and dorms.These donors explicitly requested their names not to be made public for fear of online harassment by the anonymous pro-gun mob.
  • Classroom carry has the potential of hurting the state economy.
  • The university community has given little thought to the implication of the spread of the licensed-carry, vigilante movement. Beginning in January, openly wielding guns in public spaces will be legal. The good guys with guns often find the bad guys to be blacks, and in Texas, the undocumented. Latinos all over the state ought to feel vulnerable. What would the impact of openly carrying guns around will be for Mexican Americans? Would armed black and Latinos openly carrying guns be tolerated in Whole Foods and Austin’s plush neighborhoods? Or would they be shot on site? Whose racial and political agendas does this open and concealed carry movement represent? The political representatives of the Mexican American community need to get non-university communities organized. A wide state alliance is of the essence.

Key Information About TX Law that Does Not Circulate

  • SB11 (the TX law on classroom carry)  gives campus presidents considerable latitude over the  meaning of the word “reasonable”when deciding gun-free zones on campuses. Their decisions cannot be overruled by simple majorities of governing boards but by a 2/3 majority. It is unclear whether most regents of the UT System would unanimously support SB11 (guns in classrooms).
  • In addition to the unfunded mandate of building guns lockers and creating gun-free zones, the law has immense hidden costs: recruitment, retention, grade inflation, and campus prestige. Grade inflation will damage campuses’ reputations and the value of degrees.
  • TX colleges and universities need to come clear with foreign nationals. Every foreign student needs to know the implication of the law (they have no right to be classroom-carriers but at the same time they can become the most likely targets of armed intimidation and gun violence).
  • The law mischaracterizes the numbers of classroom-carriers, It is not only the 1% of undergraduates over 21 (at the University of Houston the average undergraduate age is 27). At UT-Austin, for example, there are 15,000 potential classroom-carriers (faculty, graduate students, and staff). The law says nothing about the army of classroom-carriers in the immediate vicinity of campuses (5,500 in the case of UT-Austin) and nothing about reciprocity agreements with 39 states.
  • The law has said nothing about the potential of disrupting classroom dynamics having teachers as classroom-carriers, not students. Have students been told that it is their teachers, not them, who might be carrying semiautomatic pistols in their underwear during classroom discussions?
  • The law makes no provisions for parents who paid into Texas Tomorrow Fund over the past 15-20 years and no longer want their children to attend UT systems schools because of S.B. 11.

Actions you can take now!