by:NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in Chief
The Texas House of Representatives recently passed a bill which will allow students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses.
The bill states that the person carrying the concealed hand gun will have to have a concealed handgun license.
“According to the law, if you have a CHL (concealed handgun license), then you are allowed to carry your handgun on private property in regards of campuses,” explains Dr. Kelvin Sharp, president of South Plains College. “You have to go through a series of training exercises to carry a concealed handgun.”
The bill is expected to take effect for community colleges on Aug. 1, 2017, but will he put in place for universities in 2016.
“It will be interesting to follow a model such as Texas Tech University in terms of where are their gun-free zones,” Dr. Sharp explains. “I think it will be good to follow the campuses around us, and we get to watch those plans for a year and then we get to come back and decide what we think is best for South Plains College. I think we’ll have a good implementation and opportunity to see what’s going on at the other universities.”
Dr. Sharp says SPC will get input from the students, faculty, and staff to help identify the gun-free zones.
“You’re never going to know what’s going to happen,” Dr. Sharp says. “For example, if we have a ruling that there will be no guns allowed in the dormitories, then that’s the rule. Because who knows what’s going to happen. Someone can say, “Look at this gun I got,’ and the next thing you know it goes off and shoots someone.”
There are many positive and negative aspects of the concealed campus carry bill. One negative could be the confusion it will cause between the shooter and the person who is trying to help.
“It’s one thing to get a license to carry a concealed handgun, but it would be nice if the training would extend to some kind of active shooting training,” Dr. Sharp explains. “Maybe a little more training in regards to ‘what do you do if there is an active shooter?’ What if there’s an active shooter and five people run out and they all have their gun drawn? When the campus police show up, they’re going to be thinking, ‘Which one is the bad guy?’”
Campus police officer Nickolis Castillo has concerns about the bill as well.
“There is a significant difference in law enforcement training and civilian training,” Castillo says. “It is fairly easy to get a concealed carry gun license. Most concealed carry courses will not train under stress conditions, and even under stress conditions, even most law enforcement who are trained see a significant reduction in accuracy when using a firearm to hit a target.”
Castillo is concerned that students who don’t have the training under stress are going to have their accuracy reduced when shooting at the target they are intending to hit.
Even though there are concerns about the bill, there are many pros for the campus carry bill.
“The positive side of this bill is once you let students carry on campus, then anyone who has a plan to harm a group of people understands that they are going into an environment with others who are carrying a weapon,” Dr. Sharp says.
Castillo says the bill is going to help the campus police at SPC if there is an active shooter on campus.
“We have a good response time here at the campus police,” Castillo explains. “But sometimes we need help. When there is an active shooter across campus, and SPC is a very large, open campus, it may take some time for us to get there. So, having that additional support is a plus. It’s like adding quite a few officers.”
According to Castillo, the law enforcement officers, students, and administration need to work together to enact this bill.
“We need to work together so SPC can be a safe environment, and that’s going to require some training,” Castillo says.
“So, we’re going to be going through some training to guarantee a safe campus.”
Dr. Sharp said he believes that the most important thing is people are willing to protect themselves and others.
“For the most case, the research shows that people who have concealed hand gun licenses are safely trained and there aren’t incidents with CHL carriers,” Dr. Sharp explains. “You have to have some confidence in the people who have the weapons, so we’re not out there like sitting ducks. The times have changed. So I think this will help our campus feel a little safer.”