A year after it was implemented at four-year universities, campus carry was quietly put into effect at community colleges in Texas on Aug. 1.
Before campus carry came to Texas, a storm brewed in the form of protests, including Cocks not Glocks, as well as demonstrations in favor, like the one near the University of Texas-Austin where pro-gun activists held a mock shooting. But the scene at community colleges seems to be calmer than it has been at four-year institutions.
And that may be due in part to lack of information about it.
“We normally get info through email … but I haven’t heard anything from the school at all about campus carry,” said Tarrant County College sophomore Cateline Keiser, trying to recall if she had gotten any formal announcement from the school about the recent implementation. “Usually in the halls there’s a bunch of flyers, and I just haven’t seen or heard anything.”
The state campus carry law, Senate Bill 11, lets anyone with a gun license over 21 carry a handgun on college campuses in Texas as long as it is concealed. Private colleges and universities can opt out, and community colleges can have gun-free zones.
One campus with gun-free zones is Collin College in McKinney, where sophomore Anna Sword goes to school. Sword, a nursing student, said she has seen signage placed in front of science labs and received one email from the college regarding campus carry, during spring semester.
“I haven’t gotten any emails or anything recently, but I’ve been kind of keeping up with it ever since the bill was passed last year,” Sword told USA TODAY College. “I plan on getting my carrying license when I turn 21 in September, and I am very much for [campus carry] because I do think as Americans we do have the right to protect ourselves.”
Other community college students in Texas say they haven’t received much information about how the law will be implemented from their administrations. When asked if he knew that campus carry had been put into effect, Semiu Adepoju, a student at Houston Community College taking prerequisites for a bachelor’s in nursing, said, “Wow, I didn’t even know!”
The new gun guidelines affect hundreds of thousands of students and faculty at dozens of institutions. Last fall, over 700,000 students were enrolled in community college in Texas, according to the Texas Association of Community Colleges. There are 50 public community college districts in the state.
Reginald Gates, vice chancellor for communications and external affairs at Tarrant County College, said TCC will continue to communicate with their students about the law.
Texas is not the only state with widespread concealed campus carry. Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Idaho and Utah all allow concealed or open carry on community college campuses.
Although some students in Texas, like Sword, believe campuses become safer when students, faculty and staff are allowed to carry concealed weapons, Adepoju is among those who he think more guns make campus more dangerous.
“I don’t want guns on campus, not at all. I guess I just need to be more careful, but I don’t feel good about it,” Adepoju said. “It doesn’t make us any safer.”
Three professors at the University of Texas agree with Adepoju — and also believe the law impinges on their freedom of speech by causing self-censoring in classrooms where students or professors may fear stating their opinions in the vicinity of a gun. Those professors took the fight to court last year, but a federal judge ruled last month that the campus carry law does not violate their free speech.
As the law now goes into effect for all colleges across Texas as the school year begins, Sword said the recent quiet surrounding campus carry may be an indicator that people are beginning to change their minds about the law — or at least realizing the new law might be here to stay.
“I think now people have realized that it’s happening, it’s being implemented,” Sword said. “There’s nothing being upset will really do. I think it will almost make the transition worse, so I think it’s nice that things have calmed down.”
Nashwa Bawab is a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a USA TODAY College correspondent.