Ed Leathers has a concealed handgun license and he believes in Texas gun laws. But as the police chief of Collin College in the northern suburbs of Dallas, he is convinced that campuses are the wrong place for concealed handguns.
“Our officers are trained to go immediately to the location where shots are allegedly fired, and they are trained not to ask questions but to arrest the person they identify with a weapon” – and that could include a student or teacher trying to take down a shooter, Leathers said. If officers were to be on a scene with more than one armed person, they would not be able to tell good from bad.
Leathers and other Texas community college officials oppose a bill introduced by state Rep. Van Taylor R-Plano that would allow licensed handgun owners to carry concealed weapons on campuses. While Taylor says her measure is aimed at allowing students to protect themselves, Leathers says it could put them at greater risk. “There is a greater risk that more lives will be lost if this bill is passed,” he says. Other school officials say allowing firearms on campus should be a local choice.
Lawmakers have introduced several bills that would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry on college campuses. Although Taylor supports the broader measures, his bill would only apply to community colleges.
“They usually have older students, who come and go on campus more, who are less likely to live on campus, but who have every right to defend themselves like any other American,” Taylor says.
Scott Lewis, an Austin Community College student and Texas legislative director for campus concealed carry students, says he wants all college campuses in Texas to allow licensed handguns and that the bill by Taylor is a step in the right direction.
When a University of Texas student a few blocks away opened fire and then killed himself last fall, Lewis says, the problem hit too close to home. If there was a shooter on his campus, Lewis says, he and his classmates would be defenseless because guns aren’t allowed.
“All we’re doing with these state laws and school policies is stacking the odds against law-abiding citizens who might otherwise be able to defend themselves,” Lewis says.
Each community college must decide whether or not to allow firearms on campus, says Steve Johnson, spokesman for the Texas Association of Community Colleges. Schools have locally elected boards of trustees that set college policy, and each college should have the option to join or opt out, he says.
Teri Fowlé, a spokeswoman for San Jacinto College in Houston, agrees and said San Jacinto College leaders would not favor the idea of leaving concealed handguns on campus. “If you have students who are constantly suspicious of who is carrying a gun and who isn’t, how does that help education?” she asks.
Editor’s note: After the article was published, Ms. Fowlé contacted the Tribune to point out that her views did not represent the college’s official position and provided this statement: “The San Jacinto College is aware of bills moving forward in both The Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate have allowed students and employees with Texas state licenses to carry concealed handguns on College campuses. While the College does not have an official position on this bill, San Jacinto College is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for our students, staff, and community.”