The main campus of the University of Texas, in Austin, will allow students to carry handguns in classrooms.
The new move was announced by the president of the university, Gregory L. Fenves, who said that the decision was his greatest challenge so far. At a news briefing on Wednesday, Fenves said that while “I do not believe handguns belong in a university setting, in a campus environment dedicated to education and research, but nevertheless as president of a public university, I am responsible for implementing” the law.
The new gun law is set to go into effect on August 1, as reported by NBC News, and will allow licensed gun owners aged 21 years and older to carry guns only if the weapons are concealed.
Activists of gun rights and those in support of possession of firearm in universities say the right to carry weapons falls under the Second Amendment. Carrying a weapon, they said, is a critical self-defense measure. However, the new decision is facing criticism from students and faculty. William McRaven, the University of Texas System Chancellor who is also the former head of U.S. Special Operations Command, opposed the decision.
In a letter to McRaven, Fenves wrote, “The presence of handguns at an institution of higher learning is contrary to our mission of education and research, which is based on inquiry, free speech, and debate.”
The new law, known as SB 11, makes Texas the eighth state permitting licensed individuals to carry concealed weapons to universities, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes.
Fenves wrote a separate letter to McRaven, wherein he said that “many parents of current and prospective students have communicated to me their grave concerns about allowing handguns on the UT Austin campus, especially in university housing and classrooms.” He added, “I have significant concerns about how the law will affect our ability to recruit and retain faculty members and students,” nevertheless, “as president of The University of Texas at Austin, I am responsible for adhering to the requirements of SB 11.”
In Texas, a person must be 21 years or older to acquire a gun license, according to the Kansas City Star. This, the website notes, will significantly cut down the population that will be allowed to carry firearms.
The new law will head to the University of Texas Systems Regents for evaluation. It will be made final if no changes are made.