Texas allows guns at universities on mass shooting anniversary

2016-08-02 11:51
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Chicago – Texas became the eighth US state to allow guns on university campuses on Monday – a controversial decision that comes on the 50th anniversary of a deadly campus sniper rampage.

Under the new law now in effect, each public university in Texas has to permit concealed weapons, but can choose to limit where on campus they are allowed. Private universities are exempt from the law.

At the University of Texas at Austin, where a mass shooting in 1966 claimed 14 lives, the institution's president Gregory Fenves said the emotionally charged issue would likely be little noticed on campus.

"We have a very safe campus," Fenves said, "And I think that will continue."

Texas joins seven other states which allow concealed guns on campuses, including Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin. Eighteen states specifically ban the practice.

Fearful atmosphere

Critics of the law include three UT Austin professors who have sued, claiming their free speech rights would be violated, because students with guns would create a fearful atmosphere and stifle the open expression of ideas.

In an opinion piece published last week in The Dallas Morning News, Seema Yasmin, who teaches at a public university in Dallas, echoed that theme.

"I'm not scared of guns. I'm scared of this combination: term exam stress, undiagnosed mental illness and the ability to carry guns in university buildings," Yasmin wrote.

Proponents argue that allowing concealed weapons on campuses makes students and teachers safer, because any potential shooting attacks can be halted more quickly by armed citizens.

As the new law went into effect, UT Austin dedicated a new sculpture on its grounds to the victims of the 1966 massacre.

The stone block sculpture has etched on it the names of all 17 people who died as result of gunman Charles Whitman's actions: the 14 killed on campus, his mother and wife whom he killed earlier in the day, and one more campus victim who would die of his wounds years later.

A former military sharpshooter, Whitman climbed the university's clock tower building and shot for more than 90 minutes before being killed.

"This massacre... occurred before terms like mass shooting," said Lloyd Doggett, a Texas congressman who 50 years ago was a student at UT Austin. "Now, such gun violence has become all too commonplace."

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