Signs indicate exclusion zones around campus

8 months ago
Nyemike Okonkwo
Mercury Staff

Signage has been posted on all areas on campus where the possession of a concealed firearm is prohibited in preparation for Senate Bill 11’s early August roll out.

SB 11 permits concealed handgun license holders to carry their concealed weapons on campus and into the general buildings of public universities and colleges in Texas starting Aug. 1. The law permits each public university in the state to establish exclusion zones that suit its respective communities. The UT System Board of Regents approved UTD’s proposed zones on July 13.

These exclusion zones are designated by 19 by 24 vinyl signs displayed near every public entrance of the zone. Exclusion areas include the Callier Centers in Richardson and Dallas, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, the Bioengineering and Sciences Building, the Center for BrainHealth, all residence halls, Recreation Center West and Dining Hall West.

Students licensed for concealed carry may have a firearm in their housing unit of the University Village apartments, but they’re required to store the weapon in an approved safe when it’s not carried on their person.

UTD’s policy includes other guidelines in addition to exclusion zones. For instance, some of UTD’s buildings and rooms have a variety of uses at different times throughout the year. License holders are restricted from carrying concealed handguns in these areas in the presence of school children, in patient care facilities and in disciplinary hearings.

Open carry is not allowed and any carrier who intentionally or inadvertently displays or makes it noticeable that they’re carrying a firearm will be subject to disciplinary review. CHL holders must carry their firearm in a secure holster on their person or in a storage unit that is under the person’s control at all times. 

Alex Piquero, the associate dean for graduate programs in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, serves as the chairman of the Campus Carry Working Group and the Implementation Task Force. Piquero has worked to help put the new law into effect at UTD.

“There are two goals. One is to implement SB 11 because that’s what we legally have to do. Secondly, and I think equally as importantly, is to do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of faculty, staff, students and guests of this university,” Piquero said.

UTD Police Chief Larry Zacharias said he believes the new law will have no discernable effect on the UTD community.

“They didn’t change who can get a license, they didn’t change the process, so there’s nothing really in this law that will spur people to go out and get a license if they didn’t already have one,” Zacharias said.

Zacharias acknowledged that a portion of the UTD community is troubled by SB 11, but encourages the campus to understand many students at UTD are prohibited from gun ownership because they are either under the age of 21 or are not permanent residents of the United States.

Information on campus carry is provided at every new employee, freshman and transfer orientation and the UTD police are there to help dispel any concerns, Zacharias said.

“Any student organization that wants to have a representative from the police department come talk to their group about it in a more formal setting, we’d be happy to schedule that,” he said.

Zacharias said he believes it is important for the UTD community to develop a deeper understand of their CHL-holding neighbors.

“Most CHL owners don’t carry their weapon with them all the time and when they do they usually don’t want people to know that they’re armed,” Zacharias said.

Eric Bruno, a member of the Texas chapter of Students for Concealed Carry, also said he believes the campus will not experience noticeable change. Bruno said he hopes UTD students develops a richer understanding of their peers who choose to bring their firearms to campus.

“The person that does not know anything about license to carry owners should know that they are law abiding. They’re serious and committed to it,” Bruno said.

Piquero and the Campus Carry Working Group will monitor the impacts of SB 11 on the UTD community. Any concerns will be brought to the attention of the Working Group and adjustments may be made to the policy that prioritizes the safety and security of the campus.

“I personally don’t want this wonderful campus to change and we have tried to do every single thing we can possibly do to make sure that happens,” Piquero said.