Under a new law in Texas each public university will now have to allow concealed weapons. Private universities are exempt from the law.
The new “campus carry” law in Texas, which went into effect on Monday, is reportedly intended to prevent further mass shootings in the future, by letting students be armed and thus enabling them to defend themselves.
Under the new law, which is backed by Republican lawmakers, guns will be allowed in more places at public universities, but the institutions will get to choose where on campus they will be permitted. Private universities will not be impacted by the law.
The controversial decision came on the 50th anniversary of a deadly campus sniper rampage at the University of Texas at Austin. A mass shooting there in 1966 had claimed 14 lives, when Marine-trained sniper Charles Whitman had randomly shot at passersby from the university’s iconic tower. The event was the first US mass shooting broadcast live on national TV news, AFP reported.
The local daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, said officials had told them that the date was just a coincidence, and that the main motivation was to have the law enacted before the start of the next semester. The law comes only two days after a gunman had killed one person and injured three others on the streets of Austin.
Texas became the eighth US state to allow guns on university campuses, joining seven other states that allow concealed guns on campuses, including Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin. Eighteen states, however, specifically ban the practice. Many survivors of the UT university tower shooting half a century ago see the new law as a reckless approach that could spark more killing.
Critics of the law also include three UT Austin professors, who have sued the state claiming their freedom of speech could be violated, as students with guns would create a fearful atmosphere on campus and stifle the open expression of ideas.