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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Concealed

 
 

The reputation of the gun and the rhetoric surrounding Texas culture have been intertwined since the states inception. Perpetuated by popular culture and the media, the stereotype of the gun-toting Texan remains steadfast in the national consciousness.
There is no state firearm registration, no limit on magazine size or ammunition purchases. Class III weapons, including suppressors, machine guns and short-barreled firearms, are legal. Since the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban, Texas places no restrictions on assault weapons. Texas is a castle doctrine state, a stand your ground state and a peaceable journey state.
Texas citizens buy, sell, carry and use firearms. Guns and Texas have a long, deep-set history.
But what is the best way to approach the matter of firearms on a campus full of students?
The state has delegated the issue of concealed carry to the universities, though no university in Texas allows concealed carry within university buildings. A recent push by the A&M Student Senate to pass the Texas A&M Personal Protection Bill would call on the Texas government to mandate that public universities allow concealed carry on campus and in buildings. The vote passed 38-19, but a senators motion for reconsideration delayed the bill. Student referendums in 2009 and 2011 did not support concealed carry on campus.
A&M policy currently allows concealed carry on campus, but not in university buildings.
Proponents of campus carry believe students should have means of protection that go beyond pepper spray or self-defense training. Those in opposition believe adding guns to a college campus will only further endanger students.
The University Police Department doesnt take a partisan stance on the issue of campus carry.
Our stance is whatever the legislature indicates for us as police officers, said Lt. Allan Baron of UPD. Whatever that law says, thats what were going to enforce.
Students such as Camille Mohle, chairman of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, express personal sentiments on the subject. She said the issue comes down to self-preservation.
The fact that you cant guarantee me that Im safe on campus, a place I spend 40 or 60 hours of my week, is something to be afraid of, the senior political science major said.
Christine Ajufo, president of the Texas Aggie Democrats, disagrees.
Concealed weapons have no place on college campuses, Ajufo said. Anytime there are multiple armed, untrained individuals in such high stress situations, there is a cause for concern. I fully acknowledge the difficulties involved in obtaining a concealed handgun license, but that simply pales in comparison to police training for campus shootings.
Jack Bodden, A&M professor in abnormal psychology, offered psychological research on the modified frustration-aggression hypothesis to the argument.
This hypothesis states that when goal-directed activity is blocked, frustration and anger are aroused, Bodden said. However, violent action is not likely to occur unless aggressive cues such as guns, knives and weapons are present. If present, the odds of aggressive action go way up. If we go a step further and assume that the frustrated person with a gun has also been drinking and is an impulsive adolescent, then we have a recipe for disaster.
Campus safety
In 2007, 32 people were killed and 17 wounded on the campus of Virginia Tech. School shootings happen in this country and they happen often. Is this University prepared for such an event?
Baron said the answer is yes, and the tragedy at Virginia Tech played a direct part in A&Ms heightened preparation.
Subsequently, the department was equipped with .223 assault rifles and tactical gear, including flak vests and kevlar helmets in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting. This equipment supplements the officers standard issue sidearm and shotgun.
[The officers] have an array of weapons available to them, and the rifle is just another tool that we have, Baron said. If they have to go into a situation where there are shots being fired, they have this equipment with them.
Baron said diligent training goes into the preparation for an active shooter situation.
People say that active shooter situations are few and far between, but when they do happen they can be the most catastrophic, Baron said. After incidents like Virginia Tech, we began to get our officers trained for these situations and better equipped them, making sure they have the most up-to-date equipment and tactical gear things they need to do their job proficiently.
Baron said response times to dangerous situations are critical for the UPD.
The faster we can respond to a situation, the more lives we can save, he said. Most of our responses can be within minutes.
Chris Woolsey, sophomore political science major, supports campus carry because of the delay between the start of an incident and the arrival of first responders.
The FBI says most shooting violence lasts less than ten seconds, Woolsey said. When seconds count for your life, the police are minutes away and by law are not obligated to risk their lives for anyone.
Woolsey said police are trained to distinguish between violent offenders and armed, assisting civilians in a hypothetical situation.
Baron didnt confirm this. He said those who would carry on campus should consider the risk.
Its really sensitive in those situations because you have officers that are responding to a situation where theyre looking for someone who is actively shooting and that is in possession of a weapon, he said. Its important that concealed carry permit holders be aware that when officers arrive on the scene they dont know who you are. You need to think of what youre going to do so they dont think youre the person involved.
For both sides, the argument leads back to the Constitution, but interpretation of the document differs. Moving beyond the conventional arguments based in the Second Amendment, both sides cited the Constitutions right to life in defense of their stance.
The Constitution tells me I have a right to life, Mohle said. By disarming me, suddenly I see that right whisking away quicker than if I had been allowed my Second Amendment rights.
Ajufo sees the clause in a different light.
The First Amendment guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so it would be unreasonable to assume that one citizens right to bear arms should trump another citizens right to life, Ajufo said.
Neither side seems willing to exploit the emotional response of the public to mass shootings in order to bolster an argument. Mohle, for instance, believes her argument remains viable outside the context of recent violence.
Mass shootings are terrible situations and I dont like to bring them up with our arguments because our arguments stand on their own, Mohle said.
Ajufo said recent events bring urgency to the need for a different approach to gun control. Ajufo referenced specifically the argument some had after Aurora that an armed citizen in the theater may have limited some of Holmes damage. She said the confusion of the situation and Holmes protective equipment and firepower would have made an armed citizen ridiculously ineffective.
Speaking to bystanders immediately after the College Station shooting, Woolsey said he saw an openness to gun ownership.
When I talked to people I would ask them if they own a gun here for protection. They would say, No, but Im going to get one now. This neighborhood isnt as safe as I thought it was, Woolsey said.
Woolsey said he has a love for firearms that exists independent of their killing power and the idea that there are too many guns in the country is flawed.
I like guns because I like the smell of gunpowder, Woolsey said. I like the way the parts work in unison. I like the gun for the gun. Not for what it does. There are too many criminals in this country, not too many guns. There are not enough guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens for self-defense.
People who oppose concealed carry on campus have said the problem needs to be treated at the root of the issue instead of relying on a reactive solution.
Instead of trying to fight fire with fire after the fact, we should focus on preventing the fire from starting in the first place, Ajufo said. Its important that students know that fighting gun violence with more guns is lethally ineffective. Guns do not save lives. They are used to take the lives of people that are thought to be harming others.
Shots fired in College Station
It would be a discredit to the community to discuss the August shooting as one of divisiveness alone. An extraordinary amount of cooperation and cohesion was shown between the College Station, Bryan and University police departments; between University and College Station officials; between first responders and emergency personnel; between neighbors.
Thats one of the things thats impressive about our community is how well our law enforcement agencies work together and can come together in situations such as this, Baron said. The better the departments work together, the more efficient they can be and the more they can get accomplished.
A statement released by College Station mayor Nancy Berry praised the citys unity.
Acts of generosity shown toward public safety officials, neighbors and victims families are too numerous to list, she said. Weve heard from Texas Aggies all over the world who share in our sadness, and were thankful for you.
Things like partisanship are pushed aside in moments such as when thousands of citizens crowded Texas Avenue and Reed Arena for the funeral procession and ceremony of Constable Brian Bachmann. His casket joined thousands of others lowered into the ground every year on account of a fired gun.
Whether the right, the left or somewhere in the middle will initiate a change or compromise remains to be seen.

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