Firearms and Texas' Campus Carry Laws
Many Texans own firearms. Some shoot or hunt as a hobby. Others have concerns about personal or family safety. Most people buy a gun for positive reasons. They know the importance of storing guns safely and keeping guns out of children’s reach.
These law-abiding citizens also know it’s necessary to obtain a license to carry a gun. Gun owners must be at least 21 years of age to carry a permitted firearm in Texas. In other words, unlicensed students younger than 21 years old cannot carry a gun on a college or university campus. In this post, I will discuss recent changes to Texas campus carry law, legal context, and pros and cons of the law.
Recent Changes to Texas Law Regarding Firearms and Campus Carry
A new Texas law described by Sec. 411.2031 became effective on August 1, 2016 for state four-year colleges/universities and will become effective on August 1, 2017 for state junior and two-year colleges.
The law permits citizens with a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed, loaded weapon on a college or university campus. However, each college or university can determine certain sensitive areas or buildings in which concealed weapons will remain prohibited.
The law requires colleges and universities to post campus policy concerning campus carry on the official school website and to widely publicize the policy with faculty, students, and staff in correspondence. Prior laws that permit a licensed owner to carry a concealed gun on open campus grounds or in locked vehicles on school parking lots are unchanged with the passage.
S.B. 1907 took effect in September 2013. The law states that public or private institutions of higher education can’t prohibit or restrict the storage or transport of lawful firearms or ammunition stored properly under the law. An enrolled student of the institution who is licensed to carry a concealed gun (who legally owns the gun or ammunition) is permitted to carry it on campus. Under the law, a student can park a vehicle which contains a gun on a street, parking lot, parking garage, parking area, or driveway that’s located on the college or university campus in which he or she is enrolled.
As of this writing, the following schools allow licensed students to carry concealed firearms on campus: University of Houston (including downtown, Clear Lake, Victoria campuses), University of North Texas (including the Dallas and Health Science Center campuses), University of Texas (Arlington, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, and Tyler campuses), University of Texas of the Permian Basin, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M campuses, Tarleton State University, West Texas A&M University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, Sul Ross State University, Texas State University, Angelo State University, Texas Tech University, Midwestern University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas Southern University, Texas Woman’s University, and others.
Context to Texas Campus Carry Law
A student who's at least 21 years of age or older with a concealed handgun permit is allowed to take a handgun into a classroom when he or she is enrolled at the college or university. Texas is one of just eight states in the nation that allows students with a license to carry a gun into college buildings or on campus.
Some higher education administrators, officials, and students express concerns that the laws might discourage new students from attending a Texas state college of university. Supporters of the new law believe that it upholds citizens’ constitutional rights under the Second Amendment and might even prevent a mass shooting.
Texas law prohibits an individual’s “intentional,” “knowing,” or “reckless” possession of a firearm onto the premises of an educational institution, including any grounds or building in which an activity of the school is occurring, or in public transport vehicles leased or belonging to the school. The overarching laws about firearms apply to both public and private schools in most cases.
The campus carry law applies to older students, age 21 or older, who are licensed to carry a firearm. The new law allows a private or independent higher educational institution to prohibit or regulate the concealed carrying of firearms on campus after it consults the desires of faculty, students, and staff of the institution.
Public universities and colleges in Texas are also authorized to establish reasonable provisions, rules, and regulations regarding campus carry by licensed holders on that campus or in premises as long as it doesn’t generally prohibit those legally licensed to carry a concealed handgun on its campus.
If you or someone you love is charged with a firearm-related offense on or off a college or university campus, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Pros and Cons of the Law
Cons about campus carry
Vocal critics of the campus carry recall the University of Texas mass shootings in 1966. Enactment of the new law coincided with the 50th anniversary of the event that claimed 14 lives.
Academics who oppose the law argue that concealed guns in the classroom may lead to a chilling effect on free speech in class discussions. They’re concerned that a gun owner offended by another student’s views might somehow suppress the class’s ability to exchange ideas.
Other professors and administrators note their concerns about students who bring handguns to office hours or to a conference. These individuals believe that students shouldn’t be allowed to bring a concealed firearm into a professor or dean’s private office space.
Pros about campus carry
Advocates of the campus carry law say that a gun on campus supports a sense of personal safety. Student gun owners say it's important for anyone carrying a concealed weapon to learn how to use it. They say that a concealed handgun is like a seat belt or other personal safety device that's available in a worst-case scenario.
Others say that inadequate campus security and late hours can add up to concerns about rape, assault, and theft. According to the U.S. Department of Education, University of Texas has one of the highest reported crime rates in Texas.
Campus carry isn’t intended to promote violence on campus. For instance, the law restricts students’ ability to take a concealed gun into certain school facilities, such as chemistry labs or sports arenas.
Clear-eyed centrists believe that both sides of the argument have something to learn from each other. Gun owners want the right to bring a licensed handgun to school, especially when it provides an additional and legal sense of safety.
Summing Things Up
In Texas, the law allows citizens to buy, own, carry or sell certain firearms. However, state and federal laws regulate these rights. Restrictions exist concerning who can purchase or own a handgun or another firearm as well as where the permitted owner can carry. Common gun-related offenses include:
Unlawful possession. Both federal and state laws place restrictions on the places where possessing or carrying a firearm is restricted. If you're charged with this offense, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer should compare the offense with the legal definitions. However, an unlawful possession charge is a serious matter.
Unlawful transfer. You need a Houston firearms attorney if you're accused of transferring ownership of a handgun or firearm to another person or business. If convicted, you face serious consequences.
The bottom line is clear. If you intend to carry a firearm on or off campus in the state of Texas, you must know the law. If you're accused of a gun-related offense, you need a tenacious legal defense advocate now.
About the Author:
Brett A. Podolsky is a Criminal Legal Specialist certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is the former Assistant Criminal District Attorney for the State of Texas. As a criminal defense attorney in Houston, Texas, Mr. Podolsky dedicates his entire practice to litigation. He accepts a wide variety of cases, including drug charges, federal crimes, white-collar crimes, and sex crimes.