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Campus carry issue heightens amid pending legislation, shootings

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 01:11

The reputation of the gun and the rhetoric surrounding Texas culture have been intertwined since the state’s inception. Perpetuated by popular culture and the media, the stereotype of the gun-toting Texan remains steadfast in the national consciousness.

There is no state firearm registration, no limit on magazine size or ammunition purchases. Class III weapons, including suppressors, machine guns and short-barreled firearms, are legal. Since the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban, Texas places no restrictions on “assault weapons.” Texas is a “castle doctrine” state, a “stand your ground” state and a “peaceable journey” state.

Texas citizens buy, sell, carry and use firearms. Guns and Texas have a long, deep-set history.

But what is the best way to approach the matter of firearms on a campus full of students?

The state has delegated the issue of concealed carry to the universities, though no university in Texas allows concealed carry within university buildings. A recent push by the A&M Student Senate to pass the Texas A&M Personal Protection Bill would call on the Texas government to mandate that public universities allow concealed carry on campus and in buildings. The vote passed 38-19, but a senator’s motion for reconsideration delayed the bill. Student referendums in 2009 and 2011 did not support concealed carry on campus.

A&M policy currently allows concealed carry on campus, but not in university buildings.

Proponents of campus carry believe students should have means of protection that go beyond pepper spray or self-defense training. Those in opposition believe adding guns to a college campus will only further endanger students.

The University Police Department doesn’t take a partisan stance on the issue of campus carry.

“Our stance is whatever the legislature indicates for us as police officers,” said Lt. Allan Baron of UPD. “Whatever that law says, that’s what we’re going to enforce.”

Students such as Camille Mohle, chairman of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, express personal sentiments on the subject. She said the issue comes down to self-preservation.

“The fact that you can’t guarantee me that I’m safe on campus, a place I spend 40 or 60 hours of my week, is something to be afraid of,” the senior political science major said.

Christine Ajufo, president of the Texas Aggie Democrats, disagrees.

“Concealed weapons have no place on college campuses,” Ajufo said. “Anytime there are multiple armed, untrained individuals in such high stress situations, there is a cause for concern. I fully acknowledge the difficulties involved in obtaining a concealed handgun license, but that simply pales in comparison to police training for campus shootings.”

Jack Bodden, A&M professor in abnormal psychology, offered psychological research on the modified frustration-aggression hypothesis to the argument.

“This hypothesis states that when goal-directed activity is blocked, frustration and anger are aroused,” Bodden said. “However, violent action is not likely to occur unless ‘aggressive cues’ such as guns, knives and weapons are present. If present, the odds of aggressive action go way up. If we go a step further and assume that the frustrated person with a gun has also been drinking and is an impulsive adolescent, then we have a recipe for disaster.”

Campus safety

In 2007, 32 people were killed and 17 wounded on the campus of Virginia Tech. School shootings happen in this country and they happen often. Is this University prepared for such an event?

Baron said the answer is yes, and the tragedy at Virginia Tech played a direct part in A&M’s heightened preparation.

Subsequently, the department was equipped with .223 assault rifles and tactical gear, including flak vests and kevlar helmets in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting. This equipment supplements the officers’ standard issue sidearm and shotgun.

“[The officers] have an array of weapons available to them, and the rifle is just another tool that we have,” Baron said. “If they have to go into a situation where there are shots being fired, they have this equipment with them.”

Baron said diligent training goes into the preparation for an active shooter situation.

“People say that active shooter situations are few and far between, but when they do happen they can be the most catastrophic,” Baron said. “After incidents like Virginia Tech, we began to get our officers trained for these situations and better equipped them, making sure they have the most up-to-date equipment and tactical gear — things they need to do their job proficiently.”

Baron said response times to dangerous situations are critical for the UPD.

“The faster we can respond to a situation, the more lives we can save,” he said. “Most of our responses can be within minutes.”

Chris Woolsey, sophomore political science major, supports campus carry because of the delay between the start of an incident and the arrival of first responders.

“The FBI says most shooting violence lasts less than ten seconds,” Woolsey said. “When seconds count for your life, the police are minutes away and by law are not obligated to risk their lives for anyone.”

Woolsey said police are trained to distinguish between violent offenders and armed, assisting civilians in a hypothetical situation.

Baron didn’t confirm this. He said those who would carry on campus should consider the risk.

“It’s really sensitive in those situations because you have officers that are responding to a situation where they’re looking for someone who is actively shooting and that is in possession of a weapon,” he said. “It’s important that concealed carry permit holders be aware that when officers arrive on the scene they don’t know who you are. You need to think of what you’re going to do so they don’t think you’re the person involved.”

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