by Matthew Watkins
After months of meetings, protests and political debates, the time has come: It’s legal to carry handguns into university buildings in Texas. The state’s new campus carry law, passed in 2015, went into effect Monday. Here’s what it means at schools across the state:
Not everyone gets to carry guns; in fact, most students can’t
Campus carry only applies to people who have concealed handgun licenses. And with a few exceptions, you have to be over 21 and take state-approved training to have a concealed handgun in Texas. That means many freshmen, sophomores and juniors won’t even be able to carry if they want to. At the University of Texas at Austin, officials estimate that fewer than 1 percent of students has a license.
You still can’t carry at community colleges or private schools
To give community and junior colleges more time to prepare, the law doesn’t go into effect for those schools until 2017. At private schools, meanwhile, administrators can choose to opt out of the law. So far, only one, Amberton University, is planning to allow guns on campus next school year.
There are still places you can’t take your gun
The law still bans guns in sports arenas. And it also allows schools to impose bans in a few other areas. You won’t be able to take your gun to an on-campus daycare facility. You won’t be able to take your gun to a research lab where dangerous chemicals are stored. But guns will be allowed in classrooms and student unions. For dorms, it depends on the campus. Guns are mostly still banned in dorm rooms at UT-Austin, the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern University. But they are now allowed at Texas A&M University, Texas State University, the University of North Texas, Stephen F. Austin State University and Sam Houston State University dorms.
This law is not unprecedented
Texas is the eighth state to allow campus carry. In other states where it is allowed, universities have not reported much of a disruption in campus lifestyle. There have been a small number of incidents across the country, but they involve gun accidents — not intentional shootings.
Campus carry is not open carry
Last year, the state also passed a law allowing license holders to carry their handguns openly. This law does not apply to universities. Guns on campus must be concealed at all times on campus, and university officials are still encouraging people to call police if they see someone with a gun.
The fight isn’t over
Gun rights advocates are upset about campuses trying to ban guns in dorms. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that such bans violate the law. On the other side, three UT-Austin professors have sued their school and the state saying that the law violates academic freedom. A hearing on that case is scheduled for later this week.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern University, Texas A&M University, the University of North Texas and Sam Houston State University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune.