Galileo and Campus Carry: An open letter to UT Deans and Department Chairs

Dear Chairs and Deans,

It is heartening to know that many of you responded to my last letter by having your departments write collective statements against the implementation of SB11. I know of at least 5 departments and centers that will release such statements sometime this week, following in the footsteps of the Psychology Department.  Thank you.

In this, my third and last letter on this subject, I want to bring up a point that has been entirely overlooked: our utter failure as a center of learning to counter the propaganda that passes as knowledge. Through our silence, we have collectively allowed laws like SB 11 to find support with students, alumni, donors, parents, and the public at large. We fear intimidation. It is our moral obligation at this moment in the history of our nation to educate. What differentiates our fear to speak from Galileo’s before the Inquisition? In both cases it is the shaming mechanism of dogmatic faith-based belief that seeks to discipline us into submission. This is information that should be offered in classrooms, like teaching evolution or sexual reproduction.

It is not true that there is no scientific consensus on the impact guns have on crime, homicide, domestic violence, suicide, and sexual assault. The statistical evidence collected by scores of specialists is as overwhelming as that collected by astronomers on heliocentrism.  The mere presence of guns increases rates of crime, domestic abuse, suicide, homicide, and sexual abuse. The earth does circle around the sun. Continue reading Galileo and Campus Carry: An open letter to UT Deans and Department Chairs

Bystanders with guns can prove deadly

This article by Arthur Markman was first published on  September 29, 2010  in the Dallas Morning News

Campus shootings, gun control, abstraction and choking under pressure

On Tuesday, I arrived at my office at The University of Texas at Austin after driving my son’s carpool to school. The day started unremarkably. By 8:30, things had changed. I received a text message from the university about an armed suspect on campus. Warning sirens blared, and public address messages asked everyone to stay indoors.

Four hours later, the lockdown was lifted. A 19-year-old student, Colton Tooley, had come onto campus, shot an automatic weapon randomly and was chased by police into a library, where he fatally shot himself. Thankfully, nobody else was hurt.

Ironically, a coalition of student groups went ahead with their plans to host a speaker that night who supports allowing concealed weapons on campus. The University of Texas (like many colleges) does not allow students, faculty or staff to carry weapons on campus. According to news reports, speaker John Lott said an incident such as Tuesday’s might have ended even faster had there been armed civilians in the area.

As a professor, the thought of an armed assailant on campus is frightening. After reading about tragedies such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, I understand the impulse to give more people the chance to defend themselves in a situation in which they feel so helpless.

But as a psychologist, I don’t think arming civilians is the right way to protect our campuses. Let me give two reasons: abstraction and choking under pressure. Continue reading Bystanders with guns can prove deadly

A comment from our Petition at

This law damages my sense of safety, my feelings about my job, my belief that my family should ever meet me on campus, and my trust in the state of Texas. This feels like an overzealous interpretation of the 2nd amendment—which was originally adopted to protect local peoples from the potential tyranny of a State, in this case federal, oppressor (“being necessary to the security of a free State”)—an interpretation which ironically tramples on the sense of security, desires, and freedoms of local peoples (in this case, the vast majority of the university population). And worse, this unwanted law is reinforced by a sinister assault on the spirit of the first amendment to oppose said tyranny (“the right of the people peaceably to assemble … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”), since Texas state workers are prohibited by Texas state law to lobby the legislature or strike. I don’t feel overdramatic in saying that the government of Texas is actually pointing guns at our heads, all in the alleged name of our rights.

Elana Wakeman AUSTIN, TX

Sign the petition HERE

The Consequences of our Indifference

The consequences of bringing guns to classrooms and dorms are  predictable: it will put a chill on public debate and it will increase the rate of suicides, accidents, and sexual violence on campuses. This law will impact the humanities most severely because it will intimidate faculty from tackling controversial issues in class. Most faculty will think twice before offering courses on controversial topics like race, gender, inequality, religion, slavery, empire, colonialism, etc. This law will force universities to spend millions in establishing gun-free spaces, money that should rather be used in salaries, equity, and tenure-track lines. The unintended consequences of the law will also affect universities across Texas: it will become a recruiting- and retaining-talent nightmare. Leading scholars will hesitate to relocate to campuses festooned with gun signs and gun lockers, which will be needed to carve out gun-free spaces. These were all points brought up by the Chancellor of the UT system and by our University President before the last state legislature, but it was all to no avail. The law was passed.

That we should be even discussing the virtue of having guns on campuses is itself a testament to our passivity. After every mass murder a radicalization of the second amendment discourse ensues. And every time there is a mass shooting, new laws are enacted to make guns even more available at every possible public setting. This is both paradoxical and obscene. Had we all collectively put pressure on our legislatures and on gun manufacturers (via our pensions funds), this ever expanding second-amendment laws would have never passed. Yet they did. It is time to act.

— Jorge Canizares-Esguerra

Remarks from Gun Free UT Rally

This originally appeared at
Posted on

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

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!

Armed with Reason