Private universities debate Texas' campus carry law

Private universities across Texas will grapple with the decision to opt in or out of "campus carry."

FORT WORTH – Differing views on a divisive topic will soon be coming to North Texas college campuses.

"If you're 21 years old and are willing to go through the work to get a concealed handgun license, why can't you defend yourself on a college campus?" asked TCU junior Shelby Whitson.

"When we have guns — or even the perceived threat of guns — I think, within a college campus environment, it's detrimental to the entire environment of learning," countered TCU junior Timothy Betts.

This week, Whitson and Betts will be featured in the school's campus carry debate. It's the first of many steps the private university is taking before making the decision to opt in or opt out of the state's new campus carry law.

That law says anyone who is licensed can carry a concealed handgun at public universities starting Aug. 1, 2016.

"On private schools, the rules are different, given this is technically private property," said Matthew Watkins, a higher-education reporter for our media partners at The Texas Tribune.

Watkins said the "opt out" provision in the law requires discussion about it beforehand. At public universities, they have the option to create certain "gun-free zones" on campus, which also are prompting campus discussions.

"At most of these big, private schools, I think you will see these forums, opportunities to send e-mails with feedback, or take a survey," Watkins said.

The same thing is happening at Texas Wesleyan University which, like TCU, currently bans guns from campus.

"I think it's important to understand those dynamics," said VP of marketing and communications John Veilleux. "Listen to how people feel."

That's how students feel, too.

"It's important to get going with this public discourse, to make sure people are presented with both sides and have information," Whitson said.

TCU's campus carry debate is at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Brown-Lupton University Union Ballroom. There are also two open forums to be held Sept. 23 at 12 p.m. in Smith 104B, and Sept. 29 at 12 p.m. in BLUU Beck Geren on the TCU campus. You can also email comments to campuscarry@tcu.edu.


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