UT Austin Campus Carry Working Group Offers Recommendations

AUSTIN, Texas — The Campus Carry Policy Working Group at The University of Texas at Austin has submitted a set of 25 recommendations to President Gregory L. Fenves for implementing Senate Bill 11 (SB 11), the state's campus carry law.

The 19-member group worked for three months. It hosted two public hearings that drew 400 people, reviewed more than 3,300 online survey responses and met weekly throughout the fall semester to produce its report. The group considered how handguns must be carried and stored, where handguns may not be carried, implementation measures and proactive measures the university should take.

"The Working Group is keenly aware of the sentiment on campus," School of Law professor Steven Goode, who chaired the working group, said in a message to campus announcing the release of the report. “We strived to forge recommendations that will promote safety on campus in a way that complies with the law.”

Goode urged all members of the UT community to read the complete report in order to understand the issues the Working Group addressed.

Fenves will use the recommendations to develop final rules for implementing the law on campus that he will send to the University of Texas System and report to the Legislature. SB 11 gives university presidents the authority to develop campus-specific rules, although UT System regents can amend or reject them with a two-thirds vote.

"I thank Professor Goode and the Working Group for their hard work, thorough review and commitment to developing recommendations that consider UT Austin's specific needs. I will study the report closely and decide on our policy in the near future," Fenves said

"This week, we have heard disturbing reports about a non-university group's efforts to simulate gun violence against members of the UT community. Such attitudes have no place at UT and they reinforce my deep concerns about SB 11 and the potential impact that handguns will have on campus," said Fenves.  "However, I have a responsibility to implement the law and will do so in a way that addresses the safety of our community.”

Among the Working Groups' recommendations are:

  • License holders who carry a handgun on campus must carry it on or about their person at all times or secure it in a locked motor vehicle. Handguns — including those in backpacks and handbags — must be carried in a holster that meets specified standards.

  • Handguns will generally not be permitted in on-campus dormitories, where few students are older than 21 (the minimum age required for a permit) and some are younger than 18. Parents who have a license, however, will be permitted to carry a concealed handgun while visiting their children.

  • University employees who have a single-occupant office will be able to determine whether to allow handguns in those spaces.

  • Handguns will not be permitted at campus health centers, child care facilities, certain laboratories, pre-K through 12 school-sponsored activities on campus and university-sponsored campus programs for minors, among other venues. State law already prohibits them at ticketed collegiate sporting events.

The Working Group expressed deep concerns about allowing handguns in classrooms but concluded it could not recommend that handguns be banned there.

Because attending class is central to most students' daily lives, the Working Group said that barring handguns in classrooms would have the effect of generally prohibiting students from carrying them, which is not allowed under the law. Although this could be avoided by providing gun storage lockers on campus, the Working Group rejected this as an unsafe alternative that would multiply the danger of accidental discharges on campus.

"The Working Group is aware of, and sympathetic to, the overwhelming sentiment on campus that concealed carry should not be permitted in classrooms," the group wrote. "Every member of the Working Group — including those who are gun owners and license holders — thinks it would be best if guns were not allowed in classrooms. Nevertheless, the Working Group does not recommend that classrooms should be designated a gun-exclusion zone."

SB 11 was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott during the spring. It provides that, beginning Aug. 1, 2016, people who hold handgun licenses may carry handguns, concealed, both on the grounds and in the buildings of public institutions of higher education.

S.B. 11 authorizes the president of a university to enact reasonable rules and regulations regarding the concealed carry of handguns on campus, so long as they don't generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying their concealed handguns on campus.

A second bill passed by the Legislature — the open-carry law — expressly exempts institutions of higher education. The open carry of handguns on campus remains prohibited on campus.