Students: campus carry goes unnoticed

Caleb Martin

Police Chief Patrick Coggins discusses campus carry at the first SGA meeting Oct. 4. Photo by Izziel Latour

The gun totin’, gun slingin’, rootin’ tootin’ state of Texas is often associated with “the old west” and middle-of-the-street-high-noon shoot outs. Guns are as much a part of Texas culture as brisket, longhorns and the Dallas Cowboys. But when the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 11, allowing concealed carry license holders to conceal carry handguns on public institutions of higher education, the line between a safe campus and unsafe campus became blurred. The senate bill was met with a multitude of for and against arguments, and because MSU is a public university, students and faculty pondered what the new law would mean for their safety and how it would affect the atmosphere on campus. Where would handguns be allowed? Where would guns be prohibited?

Since the Senate bill passed, the MSU Police Department hasn’t reported a single incident regarding the use or presence of a firearm on campus from a community college or public (or private) universities.

Chief of Police Patrick Coggins said he doesn’t believe that having concealed weapons on campus will result in more violence.

“I don’t know if I buy into the logic or the argument that more concealed weapons on campus will result in more shootings,” Coggins said. “I have yet to see data that shows me people who lawfully carry handguns are the people who engage in acts that we see throughout the nation that we’re horrified by. I’m not aware of any data that shows that concealed license holders, that are legally compliant with the law, are the ones that engage in mass shootings.”

Some faculty said they were uneasy about the type of atmosphere guns on campus might create both in and out of the classrooms.

While policies regarding the implementation of Senate Bill 11 were being written, Phillip Blacklock, education and reading assistant professor, was included in the staff representation. Blacklock said he believes the bill might infringe on free speech in the classroom and make professors feel uncomfortable in their offices if a student with a handgun approached them.

“If there was the potential for any kind of problem to escalate, then people might consider the gun as an approach to solving that problem rather than a positive communicative way,” Blacklock said. “It took away that first amendment ability to speak and not be afraid to speak. A lot of professors were really concerned about guns in their office, because there are a lot of things spoken about in the office that might make someone unhappy.”

Thomas Goad, graphic design junior, feared the bill would unintentionally open the door for dangerous situations.

“Whenever I got to campus, I’d feel uncomfortable if a lot of people had guns out,” Goad said. “I feel like there’s no need for it, and more guns lead to more accidents or incidents. But, now that [SB11] has happened, I still am pretty uncomfortable with the fact that people can carry all the time. If you’re giving people the opportunity to bring guns [on campus], you never know how much of a hot head someone is and you can’t determine who will actually act on their feelings in a negative way.”

Senate Bill 11 allows individuals with conceal carry licenses to exercise their right to conceal carry as a means of protection. The bill is not intended to encourage concealed carry individuals to take on the role of hero if a school shooting were to occur.

“We have a lot of people per square mile. That’s a highly populated area,” Coggins said. “That’s not the environment that you want to go, handgun drawn, without anyone knowing who you are, chasing after somebody. The police have no way of distinguishing between good guy and bad guy. That is a good reason for the handgun to be used in self defense but not in an offensive way chasing down someone who they think violated the law.”

Dail Neely, student conduct director, believes Senate Bill 11 didn’t increase the safety or danger factor on campus. However, he doesn’t believe guns promote protection like the bill intended.

“When you add guns to anything, it doesn’t promote [safety],” Neely said. “That being said, I don’t think there’s been a real change [in the campus atmosphere].”

Following the implementation of senate bill 11, students and faculty were unsure of the precautions and regulations the school would set in place, and unaware of the rules for campus carry.

“It helps to alleviate fears when we communicate and talk about it and know what the law is and what it says. No, people won’t be walking around campus with guns on their hips. The law is pretty specific. You have to be 21, go through training and obtain a license,” Blacklock said. “I think the campus is safe. Could anything happen? Most definitely. Do I think that someone carrying a gun is going to help prevent other accidents form happening, I’m not so sure, but the law is the law, and that’s what we abide by.”

A sign warns concealled carry holders that their weapon is prohibited on the premises. Photo by Caleb Martin
A sign warns concealed carry holders that their weapon is prohibited on the premises. Photo by Caleb Martin

MSU buildings that prohibit concealed carry have been marked accordingly. Since the bill was passed in August 2016, some students said they feel that the over-all atmosphere on campus has gone unchanged.

Sydney Jongewaard, marketing junior, had friends who conceal carried off campus, and believed that passing senate bill 11 wouldn’t have a noticeable effect on the campus atmosphere.

“I know a lot of people who already had their conceal carry license and who would carry them off campus. So when the state decided you can carry them [handguns] on campus too, it was more of a convenience to students who carried to begin with,” Jongewaard said. “I’ve had friends get jumped at night in the middle of a parking lot [on campus], all she had was a tiny knife, and she could’ve had something more as a show of force to deter the people who jumped her.”

Some students felt the bill had a minimal effect on those who wanted to conceal carry their firearms on campus. According to Macy Ridinger, marketing junior, some students have been concealed carrying on campus before the law was passed.

“If people really wanted to bring a gun on campus, they would bring it regardless,” Ridinger said. “You just don’t know who is or isn’t carrying. But I don’t feel like anything has changed.”

Ashleigh Campbell, history freshman, came to MSU knowing campus carry had been legalized. Campbell said she has always felt safe on campus, and trusts those on campus who conceal carry.

“I didn’t have any hesitation about coming here [MSU] knowing the policy. I felt that people who have guns on campus would be responsible enough not to do anything drastic or irresponsible with them, or endanger the lives of other students,” Campbell said. “People who do have guns are not allowed to show a firearm around campus or in the campus buildings, and most of the students who do live on campus are under 21 and don’t have a license yet to carry a gun.  I haven’t heard about or seen any guns on campus, I know there are some but I don’t feel unsafe because of them.”

Since the senate bill passed, some students say they’ve forgotten concealed carry is now legal on campus, believing it had little effect on the campus atmosphere.

David Marler, business management junior, comes from a small town, where he saws “everyone has guns,” and feels that the campus carry law is almost forgotten amongst most of the student body.

“It just kinda went under the radar,” Marker said. “Not a lot of people are actually willing to walk around with a gun [concealed], and if they are, most people with a CHL want to keep it concealed and not flaunt it around.”

For Lisa Garcia, athletic training sophomore, the bill went entirely unnoticed. Although she feels safe on campus, she doesn’t believe that students carrying a weapon on campus is entirely a good decision.

“Adjusting to a new independence and responsibilities can break some young adults. Having access to a gun may enable them to take actions that could be prevented,” Garcia said. “If someone is crazy enough to want to use a gun on a campus, they will find a way with or without a law in place. Having a gun is fine to hunt and [use for] home security, but I don’t see you people need to carry them around unless they are a police officer.”

Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Matthew Park saw the bill as a challenge to the campus’s safety, but with no gun related incidents being reported on campus, he believes the campus atmosphere remains relatively safe as it were before August 2016.

“Because the issue of campus safety is so important, and regardless of who you speak to, the administration and the safety world, that’s one of the preeminent values that we talk about. Introducing weapons in any form, into that equation, can give rise for concern,” Park said. “We are still very much committed to the safety, wellbeing and piece of mind of all of our MSU community members. There was quite a bit of opposition or criticism, but as we approach the one year anniversary of that policy’s implementation, I have not noticed a substantial, substantive impact, or detriment that suggests the policy has really changed Midwestern State University.”



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