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Campus Carry: Opt-out or opt-in at Baylor?

(Update, Dec 3, 2015:  Rice University announced this week that it would also opt-out.) 

Does the constitutional right to self-preservation override a university’s right to ban weapons on their campus in the name of public safety?  That’s the question facing Texas private universities as they consider whether to opt in to the new campus carry law that will go into effect August of 2016.

baylor campusOver the past 10 days, both Baylor and Texas Christian University made news on the topic, with TCU announcing it would opt-out and Baylor President Judge Ken Starr telling the audience at the Texas Tribune Higher Education Symposium on November 16th that Baylor would most likely opt out too.  “My own view is that it is a very unwise public policy, with all due respect to those who feel strongly (and) very, very rooted in constitutional values as they see them,” Starr said. “We’re here as seats of learning, and I do not think this is helpful.”

The 84th Texas Legislature this past spring passed SB11, which would require public higher education institutions to permit students and faculty to carry a gun if they have the Concealed Carry Handgun License.  That means they’d have to be at least 21 and pass the state’s rigorous licensing and training program to carry a gun on campus.

There’s been a lot of debate since the law passed over the location of gun-free zones and where guns are allowed in certain buildings on the campuses of the public universities that must implement the legislation. University of Texas at Austin students came together to protest the legislation by carrying around adult sex toys a few weeks ago. “I need this proliferation of [sex toys] to offer people a visual representation of what it would be like if we all carried guns…” said Jessica Jin, organizer of the Facebook event and a UT alumna.

“I think it’s not likely we will satisfy everybody,” said A&M President Michael K. Young at a faculty senate meeting in October, ”and everybody on campus will not be the only groups we want to satisfy.”  Most of the public universities’ Presidents and Chancellors have created committees to look into how their schools should implement the legislation.  The committees will also be tasked researching the impact the legislation will have on the surrounding communities where the universities reside.

Private institutions have the option to opt out of the legislation if they wish to do so, and TCU was the first private university on November 13th to do just that, and SMU and other private institutions have hinted they are leaning toward opting out too.

TCU’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kathy Cavin-Tull said that when coming to the decision of opt out, “…all cared deeply about the safety of the community.”  One of the arguments against the legislation is that many fear that the police or those responding to a scene would not be able to determine who is the threat and who is the license holder.

The discussion continued at the symposium from both sides weighing in whether it is a good option for Baylor to implement the legislation.  Texas Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), author of the legislation and whose district includes the greater Waco area and Baylor University, said, “The right to self-preservation is a God-given right, just as freedom of speech is…These are 21-year-old citizens of this state and we ought to treat them as the adults they are.”

President Starr countered by noting that students are still discovering who they are as a person, and to give them the great responsibility of concealing a gun on campus would not be welcoming to most.  He said students and faculty would feel “less safe if weapons were brought onto campus,” adding that Baylor campus law enforcement officials are not in favor of allowing guns on campus.

The BAA posted two updates on Facebook – one after TCU announced its decision and one after President Starr spoke to the Texas Tribune audience.  Between the two posts, the topic attracted 184 Likes and more than 170 comments within 72 hours of the posting, with approximately 60% of the comments taking the opt-out side. Comments ranged from support of Starr’s view, stating that there are other means of safety for the students, such as rapid police response and emergency towers that are placed all across campus while supporters of the legislation argued that “gun-free” signs do little to ward off criminals and to carry is a constitutional right for law-abiding citizens.

Last fall the Baylor Student Senate tried to pass legislation that would allow Campus Carry-like provisions to be put into place, but after passing the Senate, the Student Body President at the time vetoed the legislation.

The discussion if Baylor should implement the legislation or to opt out will be an ongoing discussion until the final decision is made by the administration.  There is no timeline for Baylor’s formal decision on this topic.

What do you think?  Should the Baylor Board of Regents move forward with the decision to opt-out, or are there larger issues to consider that should lead them to opt-in (and what limits should be applied)?

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26 thoughts on “Campus Carry: Opt-out or opt-in at Baylor?”

  1. Charles T Dennis BBA Accounting Baylor University 1980

    In my opinion it is a massive mistake and error in judgement anytime the rights and privileges of responsible citizens are infringed by any governmental or bureaucratic organizations. This includes the 2nd Amendment and for any school to mandate that students, or teachers, who have the required legal status of conceal and carry cannot have their firearms (which they have for their own personal protection and the protection of their family and friends) is a most grievous error. I can only hope that my school will have more backbone, more intelligence, and more moral courage than to allow the current climate of political correctness prevail.

    Most respectfully
    Charles T Dennis BBA MSCIS

  2. I graduated in may 2015 but while I was a student I was always asking our student government about how to get Baylor into allowing students with CHL to carry on campus. I was told that the student body had given requests to the regents already and been denied several times over. I’m not a fan of open carry, but I do believe that Baylor should opt in to allow for CHL students to carry. My main reason for this is the fact that there is a large population of students who live or park off campus and walk. During this time they are at a high risk of being mugged or attacked. It seemed like I was getting an almost weekly notification of another student being attacked very close to campus. I feel as though allowing students to carry would be beneficial.

  3. J Michael Herrington

    I say no. For someone who was a senior in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was shot dead 52 years ago today, I find the emphasis on armed Texans appalling. Let those designated to answer moments of violence carry their guns. Everyone does not need one tucked in a book bag.

  4. Gun free zones are merely target rich environments. It’s time to let adults defend themselves. We already know how things end up in gun free zones, let’s try things the American way from now on.

  5. If BU ‘opts out, they might as well publish an announcement that says “Every law abiding citizen on this campus is a sitting duck for terrorists or other bad people to attack at your will.” Of course concealed carry licensed students and faculty should be able to carry if they want to. Just the possibility that a potential victim might be able to fight back is cause to send the wise perpetrator on to TCU or another place that proudly announced its vulnerability.

  6. “Gun Free” means only persons wanting to harm will be armed. Students who are CHC holders should be allowed to do so. If not, Baylor is obligated to provide armed security in each building.
    Ken Reynolds
    Class of 1975

  7. As for open carry-no. But if one realizes the proliferation of paperwork, background checking, and training one goes through for a CHL, I can certainly see why CHL’s should be allowed. Open carry, which means anyone could get a firearm, you’re inviting a VA Tech situation.

    But CHL carriers have already proven they’re responsible enough to protect themselves. That same trust should be considered by President Starr. When I was a student there in the early 80’s, never a weekend went by without an incident where jogging students were attacked by some lowlife. So Baylor puts up the phone boxes as a precaution. It was an ok idea, but it didn’t serve much if an attack was going on.

    But this’ll fall on deaf ears because of an antiquated Wild West ideology currently going on.

  8. Rev. Larry E. Collins

    “Gun free zones” are only gun-free to the law abiding. They are ideal locations for those who want to do the most damage with very little effort, knowing that no one else in the area is armed. It becomes “like shooting fish in a basket.” No matter how quick a “quick response team” is they cannot be quick enough to take down the terrorist standing in front of you with an automatic weapon and spraying bullets all around.

    I have made a personal decision NOT to enter or stay within ANY “gun free” zones for this very reason. Knowing the training that is required, I feel MUCH safer in an “opt-in” zone knowing that if some maniac starts shooting, I or some other CHL holder has the ability to fire back immediately and stop the mayhem on the spot.

    Rev. Larry E. Collins
    BU Classes of ’73 & ’82
    McKinney, TX

  9. Opt In.

    Allow trained and certified 21+ year old adults to defend themselves. Gun free zones are imaginary lines that allow criminals free reign on defenseless people. Statistics prove this.

    This decision should be based on facts, not emotions.

    1. Totally agree if you’re talking about CHL’s. Let them carry if they wish to do so.

      The criminal element will pack heat regardless of your rules, President Starr. The idea of Gun free zones is as idiotic as safe zones-period. It’s unrealistic.

  10. I work at a private university in Texas and we are in the midst of the same debate. The process of opting in or out of the law at a private university is thus: the university must consult with faculty, staff, and students. Likely, the recommendation from the three constituent groups will be voted on by the governing board. While alumni can have an opinion, it does not have to be taken into account.
    Our institution was already leaning toward opting out for a variety of reasons: growing mental health concerns, a grade school on campus (by law, you cannot carry in buildings where those students are), security of guns in residence halls, etc. However, our answer was further cemented after participating in Active Shooter training through Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) and our local police department. The average response time for an active shooter is 3 minutes. I’d venture to guess it would be far less at Baylor given they have their own police force. (When I had to call for alcohol in the residence halls, it was a matter of minutes, and that was just for alcohol.) Often times, we hear the argument that CHL holder can take down an active shooter. However, they were adamant that a CHL is not a license to hunt. Further, if police are in the “hunting” phase of an active shooter and you have a gun (doesn’t matter if you are a CHL or not), in the words of the police, they will shoot you and “you will not survive.” The way police are trained now is to treat everyone with a gun as a suspect and take them down. You don’t have the opportunity to explain you have a CHL.
    As an alum, I’m proud Baylor and the Board of Regents is leaning toward opting out.

  11. Linda Fields Hargus 1970

    I would feel very unsafe on a campus where I knew a bunch of people were carrying guns. No matter how well trained or responsible the licensed gun owners are, guns can be dropped or get into the hands of others. I think the risk of accidents, suicides and crimes of passion far outweigh the likelihood of gun carrying students preventing a mass murder or terrorist attack. Please opt out.

  12. Looking at the history of carry debates and campus safety, two points stand out to me. The first is that, whenever gun rights are liberalized, ominous predictions of bloodbaths abound, and almost invariably prove to be unfounded. The history of concealed carry in Texas provides an excellent example. The second is that gun-free zones prove remarkably ineffective at stopping individuals with homicidal inclinations.

    Certainly, as a private entity, Baylor would be perfectly within its rights to opt out of campus carry. Nobody is forcing students to attend Baylor. But I have not heard any particularly compelling argument in favor of the university opting out of campus carry. Considering the fact that any student of age licensed for concealed carry may already undertake that ‘great responsibility’ perfectly legally off campus, the suggestion that such students would suddenly be inclined towards violence by virtue of being on-campus doesn’t carry a great deal of weight, in my opinion.

    Ultimately, this debate brings the exercise of constitutional rights into conflict with strong emotional, but ultimately hypothetical, opposition. Given the lack of compelling logical arguments against campus carry, I respectfully suggest that the considerations of individual constitutional rights should carry the day. Opt-in.

  13. Opt-in. Yes, I completely understand and even agree with the reasons against this, but I also know that today’s world is different from when I graduated. When I check the statistics on where mass murders happen, they are almost always in gun-free zones. I don’t want Baylor to be a place that attracts those wackos who want a notorious fifteen minutes of fame. (“When seconds count, police are only minutes away.”)

  14. Megan is absolutely right. I am a 1985 grad and have worked at Baylor for the last 20 years. Baylor has Active Shooter training that all faculty and staff must take. I am not 100% sure, but I think the students do as well. We are not just “sitting ducks” waiting for someone to come shoot us. We have been given training and strategies to use when an active shooter is on campus. I also am concerned that the CHL person would be taken down by police along with the shooter, because how can they tell who the perpetrator is when they both have guns?
    As a person who walks this campus every day, I think we should opt out. And unless you live and work here, respectfully, I think your opinion shouldn’t hold much sway. I know some students have asked the regents to opt in, but the campus as a whole has not held this discussion. I imagine it is time.
    Mary Goolsby

  15. Please OPT OUT. Use guns for hunting on the weekends if you feel you really need to kill something. Guns have no place in the dorms, classrooms or sporting events. … or Georges!

    Higher education is challenging enough without fear of an upset student or faculty easily accessing a gun to commit suicide, or kill another human being.

  16. Cal Sieg, Baylor Law, Class of 77

    Glad to see all the interest in this issue. Likely there is no one correct answer. As a 26 year veteran of the FBI and (post retirement) veteran of 3 1/2 years serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know from personal experience the dangers we all face today, no matter where in the world we are. Police are never going to be able to respond quickly enough. Try as they may, its just impossible. I also am not in favor of just anyone carrying on campuses. If there were a process to vet further those carrying concealed, I could be in favor. For example, why not take advantage of someone well trained, mature and responsible and allow them to add to security by their mere presence? Also, all firearms would have to be concealed, no open carry.

  17. Well, there goes that Wild West mentality attached to CHL holders….yep. We just shoot ’em up on a moment’s notice without reason.

    You believe that and I have some ocean property with Unicorns in Arizona I’d love to show you….

  18. Texas law already permits 21 year-olds to obtain their CHL, so if the State of Texas allows these young adults to carry concealed wherever it is lawful to do so, why would we draw the line at the border of a university?

    For those that are opposed to concealed carry on campus, there is likely a misunderstanding of what goes into carrying concealed. No, the average CHL holder is not looking for an opportunity to “shoot ’em up”. To the contrary, the average CHL holder hopes (and prays) that he or she NEVER has to use their firearm. BUT, if one finds one’s life to be in imminent danger, and if safe escape is not an option, the CHL holder has made the decision ahead of time that they will defend their life, and possibly the lives of others.

    For the average CHL holder, there is a great deal of consideration that goes into the decision to carry concealed in the first place, not the least of which are legal ramifications. In addition, I would suggest that a notable number of CHL holders are engaged in ongoing education – reading monthly magazines on the subject, subscribing to informative web sites, training from time to time at shooting ranges, and the like. There is much more to holding a CHL than meets the eye, and I would respectfully ask those who do not own firearms to give some credit to those who have gone through the process to obtain a CHL.

    To me, the whole point of allowing concealed carry on campus is DETERRENCE, just as it is in a theater, just as it is in a shopping mall, and just as it is in many other public venues. You want any would-be perpetrator to think twice about committing a crime, and just the knowledge that someone may very well return fire is frequently enough to keep the crime from being committed in the first place. This would hold true for the classroom setting as well as walking around campus.

    The US Concealed Carry Association prints an ad that says the following: “When seconds count, police are minutes away….” You can tell me that police are 3 minutes away, and I’ll grant you that’s quick. But, if a shooter walks through a door and YOU are his first target, are you still content to wait for the police? If concealed carry is not allowed on campus, then you are giving a shooter 3 minutes of open season, and I don’t wish for any of our sons and daughters to be subjected to that.

    I would hope that the administration, faculty and student government would earnestly consider OPTING IN. PLEASE SOLICIT THE INPUT OF CURRENT CHLs; TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN WHAT CARRYING CONCEALED MEANS. WALK THE PROVERBIAL MILE IN A CHL’s SHOES. I would suggest that Texas has an excellent record of success with concealed carry, and I would expect concealed carry at Baylor to be no different.

  19. Get the emotion out of this and look at the facts:

    1. You have to be 21 to apply for a license. That eliminates most of the student body.

    2. The statute only allows concealed carry on campus. There will be no one openly carried guns.

    3. Licensed persons cannot carry into athletic events or bars and cannot brandish their weapons.

    4. Statistically, handgun licensees are less likely to commit crimes than licensed peace officers.

    5. Only 3% ( about 7% of those eligible) of Texans are licensed to carry.

    6. We mingle with handgun licensees virtually everywhere we go in Texas; restaurants, stores, gas stations, churches.

    7. Uninterrupted mass shootings occur only in gun free zones.

    8. Criminals, crazies and terrorists don’t care what your policy is. They will take their weapons wherever they wish.

    9. Shootings and shooters do not last long enough for law enforcement to have to choose between good folks and bad.

    Vote to opt out if you wish but please acknowledge that your vote is driven by irrational fear, not demonstrated fact. In academia, of all places, our decisions should be based on fact driven analysis. I’m looking at you President Starr. David Moseley, BU 69

  20. Wayne C. and Jane Simonds King

    Opt out. It used to be that two people got mad at each other and the result was black eyes. Now people are dead. I realize that terrorism has changed the situation, but do you really want students responding with gunfire in a situation where they don’t have adequate information as to the threat. And, face it, we have no way to guarantee adequate training and practice. More guns on campus will not make Baylor safer.

    1. From 1996-2014, the most recent year that Texas data are available, the State of Texas issued 1,876,632 concealed carry licenses. Over that time frame, 2,250 CHL holders were convicted of crimes, for a rate of 0.12%, or a 99.88% non-crime rate. Further, CHL holders have committed 42 murders/ manslaughters, which are obviously 42 too many, but still only a 0.002% rate. Simply put, CHL holders don’t commit crime, so anyone who suggests that more guns equates to more crimes is not looking at the statistics.

  21. As a friend and contributor to Baylor, I strongly recommend that you do NOT op out. More guns less crime!

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