By Clay Waters ~
The New York Times’ obsession with concealed-carry laws on campus in Texas continued, with reporter Dave Philipps, fresh off his celebration of a sex-toy anti-gun rally at the University of Texas in liberal Austin, conducted sober interviews with four people at UT to see how they felt about guns, for Sunday’s edition. Three of the four hated the idea, and their reasoning was pretty ridiculous, like the professor who claimed, “She is also worried that the presence of guns might impinge free speech by making some students too fearful to speak their minds in class. Some professors have resigned rather than teach in the environment.”
The Times treated the concealed-carry issue, widely supported in Texas, as the scandal of the century, with a full-page and big headline over the interviews, ginning up problems where so far none exists: “Grappling With Guns on Campus – Voices From The University of Texas On Concealed Weapons.”
Apparently only liberal Austin, Texas, home of the state’s flagship public institution, has a problem with concealed carry, as the Times hasn’t run any stories about controversies at, say, Texas A&M. But somehow the hysterical concerns of liberals at UT become a microcosm of the debate statewide.
As classes began here at the University of Texas this past week amid a new law allowing concealed handguns on college campuses in the state, an accounting student quietly strapped on a pistol and headed to class.
A pre-med sophomore joined a raucous protest against the law.
A professor who had sued to stop the law resigned herself to teaching with handguns in the classroom.
And the college president sought out ways to safeguard the campus culture that he cherished while accommodating a law that he did not.
While the right to carry a gun is fiercely protected by Second Amendment advocates across the country, administrators at universities in Texas, both public and private, have expressed reservations about the so-called campus-carry law. Nowhere has the debate been as intense as it has been here in Austin, a liberal outpost in a conservative state.
The law, passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, went into effect Aug. 1 and has turned this campus of 50,000 into a microcosm of the national debate over how to balance the constitutional right to bear arms with the costs that guns often impose.
How does a blue enclave in a red state become a “microcosm of the national debate”?
Those on campus are at the heart of a struggle to decide how to expand rights without stepping on others and what, if any, places should be exempt. Many professors and students worry that guns in classrooms will frighten people and discourage free expression, which is the bedrock of academia.
The few students licensed to carry handguns and their many supporters beyond campus counter that self-defense and the right of individuals to bear arms must not be restricted.
The question now is how do those abstract ideas play out — for students trying to get through organic chemistry or meet a professor after class, professors who want to introduce critical thinking and intellectual exploration without fear, and administrators walking a tightrope with the Legislature. Here are the thoughts of four members of this campus.
Philipps began with Huyler Marsh, a competitive shooter, studying for a master’s degree in accounting. Then came the first mention of the Charles Whitman shootings at the University of Texas a half century ago:
University rules still ban guns from many places: labs with hazardous materials, some areas of dormitories, day-care centers, football games, mental health facilities and the top of the University of Texas Tower, where 50 years ago an engineering student shot 49 people. Despite the rules, Mr. Marsh said he would be able to take his gun nearly everywhere he went.
Ana Lopez grew up not far from campus in Austin and dreamed of going to the University of Texas. Now a sophomore studying pre-med in the honors program, she is not so sure she made the right choice.
“I had a really great world literature last year,” she said. “We were a small class full of different races, different sexualities. We talked about a lot of contentious issues — slavery, racism — and of course people disagreed.”
She is worried now that in such classes that students will hesitate, knowing someone might have a gun.
Actually, it’s the young, left-wing social justice warriors that are truly stifling campus speech, as the Times itself pointed out on yesterday’s front page.
Philipps again mentioned the Whitman shootings from a half-century ago.
She soon became one of the leading student activists against the law, joining a protest this past week beneath the clock tower where the first mass shooting on a college campus took place 50 years ago.
Campus carry, she feels, was forced on the campus by outsiders to make a political point.
“It’s not just an issue on campus,” Ms. Lopez said. “The Legislature has always been at odds with U.T. They don’t like us because we’re this liberal institution in a red state. They don’t have our best interest in mind.”
Philipps let Professor Lisa Moore spout unchallenged ignorance and paranoia about the point of the Second Amendment:
“The Second Amendment allows for a well-regulated militia,” Professor Moore said. “What we have is not a well-regulated militia. It’s a 21-year-old with a backpack.”
She is also worried that the presence of guns might impinge free speech by making some students too fearful to speak their minds in class. Some professors have resigned rather than teach in the environment.
“I’m a lesbian who teaches gay and lesbian studies,” Professor Moore said. “I know how vulnerable some students can feel. Having a weaponized campus is going to make it feel that much less welcoming.”
Already, she said, the law has interfered with teaching. During her first class after the law took effect, she said, her English literature students discussed the rules and she explained how she could not legally prohibit guns in class, or even ask who had them.
“Three of them started crying,” she said. “We did not talk about Jane Austen that day.”
Moore’s students seem to have deeper issues than the concealed-carry law.
The campus-carry law was passed three days before Gregory Fenves became president of the University of Texas at Austin. He has spent more than a year since trying to accommodate it in a way that would limit the impact without inviting court challenges from gun groups or provoking the Legislature to pass new laws that could cut funding or impose rules that would allow people to carry guns openly in classes.
The Austin campus has imposed a warren of exclusion zones to protect students and sensitive areas, but Mr. Fenves has tried to limit signs marking those zones. He told his campus safety team that he did not want the campus to “look like a war zone.”
“Already we’ve lost a dean over the issue,” he said. “We are concerned about it, and we will continue to monitor it.”
Liberal melodrama aside, the dean wasn’t a casualty of the concealed-carry “war zone” — he simply resigned.