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Student Body President signs act advocating for campus concealed carry

Student Body President Kyle Kelly signed a Student Senate act Monday afternoon that advocates for the concealed carry of handguns in campus buildings.
The Personal Protection Act was passed Wednesday by Student Senate with a vote of 39 for, 12 against and six abstaining. It calls for the ability of those with valid concealed handgun licenses to carry handguns in campus buildings for self defense.
The act’s passage does not alter Texas A&M policy or state law, but instead advocates to campus administrators and state policymakers on behalf of Student Government Association.
Kelly said his decision to sign the act was a difficult one and it was important to separate facts from emotion.
“I have gone from being against the issue and of the position of vetoing the bill to now signing it and being in favor of concealed carry on campus,” Kelly said. “Part of that is because what I have learned through the process that I didn’t know — I am a student, I am an engineer, I am not a politician. I love Texas A&M and so I was not an expert on this complicated issue, but from what I have learned about it I do think that it would be a great thing from a rights — but most importantly public safety — standpoint.”
Kelly said this act was to increase personal protection on campus and allow students to feel safe in all situations.
“Texas A&M is one of the safest campuses in the country,” Kelly said. “What we are dealing with are limitations of timing in most scenarios where there is no time to respond if they are not immediately at the scene. This is no discredit to [law enforcement] and the job that they do. It is a safe campus and they do a phenomenal job. This is just something where we feel like it would be safer if those rights we have in the general public were consistent on campus.”
Kelly said the majority of student responses he received were in favor of the bill, which he said was one of the criteria he used when making his decision.
“I represent the students at Texas A&M,” Kelly said. “I am going based off of the student conversations that I have had and those who have reached out to me via social media, on Facebook, tweeted at me, just anyway of communicating with me, and of course email, first and foremost, and have gone with what they said, what they thought, how they felt.”
Cary Cheshire, political science senior and the student senator who authored the act, is an advocate for concealed carry and said this is an opportunity to increase campus safety.
“We look at institutions of higher education across the United States and violent crime is increasing — sexual assault, specifically here in Texas, is rapidly increasing,” Cheshire said. “I think instead of perpetuating the victim class by telling law-abiding citizens that they can’t protect themselves, we ought to empower individuals to feel safe and to feel secure.”
Not all students are in favor of the bill, however. The Graduate and Professional Student Council passed a resolution in opposition of the Personal Protection Act. The resolution stated that research shows concealed carry zones are not necessarily safer, said Christopher Lyons, plant pathology and microbiology graduate student and GPSC president.
“Beyond that, it’s a matter of feeling safe, it is a matter of keeping guns off our campus,” Lyons said. “This being an institute of higher learning and not somewhere where you would need to exercise that, we have a police force that can handle those situations.”
There are students on both sides of the issue, but they both share a common ground, Kelly said.
“At the end of the day, what is very interesting about this issue is that we are all in it for the best interest of public safety, and for me the student body’s safety,” Kelly said. “Where we disagree is which is a safer scenario — to have concealed carry, to have students, faculty, staff and guests be able to carry on campus, or is it safer to maintain what we currently have to where it is not within student rules to be in a building on campus and have concealed carry?”
Though the act has passed through Student Senate, no official policy changes can be made without action by A&M administrators or state legislators, Kelly said.
“It is important to understand what this actually means and that it is not making a change to the policy and certainly, of course, not to the law in Texas. It is just advocating on behalf of students for that change,” Kelly said. “It is not immediately enacting change — it is to further discussions on this issue.”
Braden Kennedy, political science senior and SGA vice president of legislative relations, said the next step for the Student Government Association is to research and advocate to state legislators to allow students to carry concealed handguns on campus.
“We will watch what the Texas legislature does,” Kennedy said. “In the last session they had a specific bill calling for concealed carry on campus. As soon as one of those pops up we will get behind that bill and help advocate specifically for the bill that they bring up. I fully expect that they will do that on their own, but until they do so we will talk to legislators and tell them we want to see that done and then we will talk to as many lawmakers as we can and legislators and tell them that we want to see this happen and go from there.”
While this act is just the beginning of a long legislative process, it creates opportunities for discussion, Kelly said.
“More than anything I just want to continue discussion, in the coming days I am open to meeting and talking and can be contacted through email,” Kelly said. “Understanding of the issue and how it directly pertains to Texas A&M is important, and I would encourage people to do their own research.”

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