Texas Just Made College Less Safe

Excerpts from “Texas Just Made College Less Safe” by Matt Valentine, Published in Politico Magazine, June 1, 2015:

When the founding fathers wrote that the right to bear arms “shall not be infringed,” did they mean guns must be allowed everywhere, even in classrooms and dorm rooms? 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.”

This year, the Texas legislature took a different tack, and voted to allow faculty, staff, visitors and students over age 21 to carry concealed handguns on college campuses in the state, provided they have a license. (In the 2013 legislative session, Texas reduced the training requirement for a concealed handgun license from 10 hours of instruction to just four. License applicants must also demonstrate the ability to hit human-sized, stationary targets at distances of 3 to 15 yards, with 70 percent accuracy.) …

William McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System,  wrote to state representatives in April, warning them that campus carry could adversely affect faculty recruitment. In a nationally representative poll of college presidents, 95 percent said they oppose measures to allow concealed carry on campus…

Those who want to arm educators often cite the example of Pearl High School, where in 1997, Assistant Principal Joel Myrick retrieved a handgun from his own truck and confronted a gunman. (Some accounts forget to mention that Myrick was an Army reservist, and that he intervened as the 16-year-old assailant was leaving the school, following a shooting spree that left two people dead and three others injured.)

In fact you are less likely to be murdered on a school campus than in the general population. Beginning in 1990, the Clery Act required all colleges that participate in federal student aid programs to report crimes on and around their campuses. It’s illuminating data to swim through, and to compare to national totals. A database query of the CDC’s Fatal Injury Reports reflects 18,536 total homicides in Texas from 2001 to 2013. The Clery data indicates that only five of those were on or near college campuses. (There are currently about 1.5 million students enrolled in institutions of higher education in the state.) If campus carry will make Texas college campuses as safe as the rest of the state, they’ll be deadlier than they are now.

At one point, gun rights and gun control advocates saw eye-to-eye on guns in schools. In the immediate aftermath of the Columbine High School shooting of 1999, even the NRA believed in “absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools.” In the annual meeting that year, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said that even talking about guns in schools should be prohibited. “We believe America’s schools should be as safe as America’s airports. You can’t talk about, much less take, bombs and guns onto airplanes. Such behavior in our schools should be prosecuted just as certainly as such behavior in our airports is prosecuted.”