No Weapons at St. Mary’s University

No Weapons at St. Mary’s University

St. Mary’s University in San Antonio joins Texas Christian University and Rice University in opting out of a new state law that allows concealed guns at universities.

The controversial campus carries law allows private universities to opt out.

Advocates say it will allow licensed students, faculty, and others to protect themselves on college campuses while critics say allowing guns will make campuses less safe.

St. Mary’s will stick with its current firearms policy, which bans carrying a handgun on campus.

Leaders of every major private university in the state have indicated they intend to reaffirm their gun bans. Most private universities in San Antonio are leaning toward opting out of the new law.

Trinity University has not made a formal announcement about whether it will opt out. President Danny Anderson openly said at an October event that weapons likely would remain forbidden.

“After consulting with students, faculty and staff, this issue will be presented to the board on Thursday)with a recommendation to opt out,” Margaret Garcia, University of the Incarnate Word spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail.

This decision underscores what has become clear since Gov. Greg Abbott signed the new law earlier this year: Public colleges are being pressured to do something their leaders don’t want to do.

Public universities are grappling with how to manage the new law.

Four-year state universities must have plans to implement the new law by next Aug. 1 when it takes effect. Two-year colleges have an extra year. While the law lets private universities opt out, public colleges only may carve out limited “gun-free zones.”

Campus carry plans developed by the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M University-San Antonio, which likely would prohibit guns in certain areas, will be reviewed by their respective university system regents before they take effect.

The Faculty Council at the University of Texas at Austin, where arguments over the law have been particularly fierce, passed a resolution earlier this month urging the administration to ban guns in all “educational spaces,” including classrooms, dorms, and offices.

Proponents of the law say there’s no evidence that allowing concealed carry holders to bring guns on campus leads to any more violence on campus. A concealed carry holder in the right place at the right time, they argue, could help stop a school shooting.

“I think what they’ve done is jump on this bandwagon of ignorance as it relates to allowing law-abiding, licensed citizens to defend themselves no matter where they go,” C.J. Grisham, an open carry activist who is running for state Senate, said of the private schools opting out. “If they want their students to be victims, they have every right to let their students be victims.”

“It remains unclear what areas public schools actually can keep gun-free — a weakness of the vague but onerous law that makes it even less surprising that private colleges would want to opt out”, said Michael A. Olivas, director of UH’s Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance.

“Of course privates don’t want to do it — it’s a bad law. Any school worth its weight is going to say no to this because it’s a terribly bad idea”, Olivas also said.

“The law is clearer when it comes to private schools, over which the state has limited authority. To opt out, private universities first must consult with the campus community. Since most private universities already ban guns on campuses, it’s not surprising they’re choosing not to be incorporated by the new law”, said Ray Martinez, president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas.