Editorial Board: Campus carry debate clouded by fear on both sides of issue
2 years ago
Nidhi GotgiManaging Editor
Connie ChengGraphics Editor
Andrew GallagosPhoto Editor
Cara SantucciNews Editor
Pablo JuarezSports Editor
The passage of SB11, the law allowing concealed handguns into campus buildings at Texas public colleges, has reignited the debate over campus carry. Unfortunately, most of the arguments being made are founded in fear rather than fact.
For concealed handgun license holders, one of the main reasons they support the law is to defend themselves and others in the event of a campus shooting. On the other side, those who are against SB11 are fearful of what may happen if someone with a CHL gets upset in a classroom and starts spraying bullets into professors and students.
What nobody seems to have discussed yet is that neither of these scenarios are statistically likely to happen.
In the United States, there are approximately 7,250 colleges and universities. According to a report by USA Today, since 2006 there have been mass shootings at exactly six of these institutions. That means there has been a mass shooting at approximately 0.083 percent of colleges in this country in the last decade. Looking at the numbers, the possibility of actually needing to defend oneself with force in the event of an active shooter on a campus seems to be highly unlikely simply because campus shootings are incredibly rare.
On the flip side, the likelihood of a CHL holder committing a violent act is almost as improbable as a campus shooting. According to the latest available data from the Texas Department of Pulics Safety, there are 825,957 CHL holders in the state of Texas. Out of the 50,869 convictions in the state in 2013, only 158 were CHL holders. That’s just 0.31 percent.
Breaking those numbers down even further, only 34 of those CHL holders were convicted for a charge that involved weapons of any kind. In other words, only 0.067 percent of all felons in Texas were CHL holders who were arrested for a violent offense involving a weapon. Statistically, CHL holders aren’t prone to commit crimes, especially those that involve the use of an actual gun. The belief that CHL holders are a source of violence just isn’t supported by data.
While the number of violent CHL holders is low and the need to defend oneself in the event of a campus shooting is almost equally low, the hysteria around campus carry has persisted. A group of students at The University of Texas at Austin have even gone as far as promising to carry dildos on the first day of classes next Fall to protest the implementation of the law.
While there hasn’t been such an eye raising form of expression against SB11 at UTD, the number of those who are against campus carry is extremely high. According to a recent poll conducted by The Mercury, 75 percent of students surveyed are against the law. What people may not realize is that very few people at UTD qualify for campus carry to begin with.
To be eligible for a CHL license in Texas, you must be 21 years or older — unless you are an active or former member of the military, in which case you can get a CHL at 18. Along with undergoing a criminal background check, you also have to be a U.S. citizen.
Looking at these requirements, it’s made immediately clear that a large portion of students here at UTD will not be eligible for campus carry.
About 25 percent of students are international, meaing a quarter of the student population is automatically ineligible to become CHL holders.
It’s harder to find out who exactly will be eligible out of the remaining students, but we know that there are roughly 17,322 American students on campus. In Dallas and Collin County — the main areas of residence for most UTD students — there were 22,947 CHL’s issued last year according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. A majority of these holders would have to be enrolled at UTD for there to even be a concern that most people would ever run into them.
It’s also unlikely that students will even encounter a CHL holder in general, even in a gun-friendly state like Texas. There are approximately 7,116, 637 adults in the state and only about 11.6 percent of them are CHL holders.
All of this said, it’s still important that the university do everything possible to inform and educate students about campus carry and its implications. A large number of people we surveyed were either unaware or uninformed about the actual law and the fact that concealed handguns are already allowed on campuses, just not in campus buildings. This basic piece of information has to be addressed by UTD and the campus carry committee whose job it is to inform students about the policies it’s recommending to the UT System.
While most of this information has to be kept under wraps during the initial processes, the committee should constantly keep the student population up to date on campus carry as much as possible. One campus town hall on the law has already been held, but that’s not enough. Events like these should be held at regular intervals to educate and allow discussion on the logistics of the implementation of SB11.
Also, Student Government should make an effort to regularly communicate with its constituents about the basics of the law. Boothing, passing out flyers, using SG’s website and, most importantly, talking to students will be critical to getting the facts out about campus carry.
Here at The Mercury, we aren’t in favor of more guns on campus, whether legal or illegal. That being said, we understand that campus carry is a reality we must learn to deal with. Since that is the case, the main course of action we have chosen to take is to inform our readers about the issue from every side of the story and try to get the truth out there. Too often, the media has taken the issue of guns and made it into “clickbait” that gets views and likes on social media without looking too deeply into the actual facts.
Doing this is beneficial to no one. As the student newspaper of UTD, our job is to let students know the story behind the headlines and that’s exactly what we plan to do with campus carry. We’re going to tell you what is actually happening rather than let our emotions dictate our actions.
Whether the majority of students want it or not, campus carry is happening. It’s time we started coping with that fact and handling it constructively rather than cowering behind our illogical fears.