Friday, July 29, 2016

UTSA Lets Professors Decide If Offices Will Be Gun-Free Zones

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 6:10 AM

As of August 1, UTSA will not be gun free. - GABBY MATA
  • Gabby Mata
  • As of August 1, UTSA will not be gun free.
Just days before concealed handguns on college campuses becomes a reality, UTSA President Ricardo Romo announced that faculty and staff may designate their offices as gun-free zones.

The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 11 in 2015 that allowed concealed licensed handgun holders, who must be 21, to carry their weapons on public college campuses, including in classrooms. The law takes effect Monday.

Romo's announcement mirrors a decision made by UT-Austin regents who voted to allow professors to ban concealed carry weapons from private offices earlier this month. At UTSA, faculty and staff must give verbal notification that concealed handguns aren't allowed and, if possible, provide written notification. Romo said the decision was made because of faculty and staff concerns, adding that UTSA will still be compliant with the law.

In San Antonio, the only campuses effected are UTSA and Texas A&M San Antonio. However, two-year campuses, like Alamo Colleges, are required to implement campus carry on August 1, 2017. Private colleges are allowed to opt out and most have, including the University of Incarnate Word and Our Lady of the Lake University. 

UTSA spokesman Joe Izbrand says the university sent a reminder to all students about the law Thursday. And once fall semester gets underway in late August, faculty, staff and students will be notified of required online training that will walk them through UTSA's campus carry policies. Texas A&M University spokeswoman Cavett McCrary said the A&M police department held a series of training sessions through July for faculty, staff and students. The university will also be using social media to direct students to a website that says where they can and can't carry concealed handguns.

However, the campus carry law did allow universities to carve out some gun-free zones. In addition to private offices at UTSA, residence halls and housing units are off limits for concealed carriers, along with labs that have dangerous and flammable substances in them. Counseling and health services centers are no-go zones for people packing heat, as are child care facilities, sporting venues and youth events. At Texas A&M San Antonio, concealed carriers cannot take their weapons to counseling centers, to recreation and fitness centers, or to any facility leased by a third-party. Faculty and staff can ban concealed carry in private offices if the university's president signs off on the request.

While campus carry becomes a reality Monday, despite complaints from faculty and students that concealed carry will create a dangerous environment for learning, there is one legal challenge to the law in the courts. In early July, three UT-Austin professors sued the state and their university. "They request a federal injunction, based on rights asserted under the United States Constitution's First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendments, against having the state compel that their classrooms be the locus of implementation of the overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies of the Texas Legislature and the insufficiently protective policies of UT-Austin's President," the lawsuit states. There is a hearing in the case over a proposed preliminary injunction on August 4.



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