For the sake of anonymity I will not be listing my name. I am a student at the University of Texas at Austin. As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer and anything you read in this post is NOT legal advice. Recently, campus carry became legal and enacted by students. This will be an overview of campus carry from the heart of Texas, covering the reality of campus carry, complaints, and advice for any other students wishing to carry while on campus. Only concealed carry is permitted, and open carry is still NOT permitted on any university property.
Overview of Austin:
Austin is the state capital and is often regarded as the “blue heart” of Texas by many; this is due to the more democratic practices that are found within Austin. Although Texas is often regarded as a “red” state that is firearm friendly. Austin goes nearly against the norm and is often compared to California—especially in regards to the citizens and their opinion on firearms. While in Austin, I’ve found many people, college students especially, that do not enjoy firearms, much less see the actual value in them. Since Texas has only recently passed the legislature for public university campus carry, it is still regarded as a taboo topic of discussion within UT. Prior to August 1st 2016, the date when campus carry was permitted, professors would openly discuss their disdain for campus carry, some even discussing signing a petition that would entail them relinquishing their position at the university if campus carry is enacted—all of which was discussed after the legislature passed ironically enough. Many students and professors alike thought that campus carry was a debatable topic, not realizing that the legislature passed and the only thing universities can do is establish “safe zones” (i.e. 30.06 postings in certain rooms/buildings) in supplement to the dormitories and certain faculty offices. Needless to say, all of the preceding information serves to preface this posting about campus carry from the perspective of a student.
Some buildings on campus are free from concealed carry, without a posted 30.06 sign or “firearms prohibited” sign, these include the residence halls, athletic events, and buildings where health services are provided. In addition to these “automatic” safe zones, additional offices and laboratories may request and post a 30.06 sign. Surprisingly, professors do not have the ability to declare their class a gun free zone—classrooms are prohibited form being declared gun free. The safe zones, as established by the university, vary based on each university. A big hindrance to campus carry is the fact that the majority of commuter parking is about a fifteen-minute walk, up-hill, and how this affects students when facing an established gun free zone. Since a particular office may have a 30.06 posting, if a student has a meeting in the middle of the day at said office, the student is forced to reschedule an appointment or interrupt their schedule to drop their firearm off in their vehicle. As many can imagine, this is a rather big inconvenience since many students have busy schedules.
Importance of Concealment:
On campus, concealed carry is of utmost importance. In a setting where there is an estimated less than 1% of students that carry, most students are unknowledgeable in the world of firearms. Adding to this, most professors have a disdain for campus carry, with the rationale of, “This is my classroom and I am not comfortable with it.” All of this supports the fact that concealment is paramount, where even printing would be enough to cause panic and possibly LEO involvement. Biggest issues for students, as far as concealment, is the repeated sitting, standing, walking, biking, and removing and putting on backpacks. Additionally, the little issues such as stretching and accidental shirt lifting can become large issues that can initiate problems. Another issue of concealment arises from attire, whereas most college students are not deeply interested in firearms, any college students boasting clothing of the NRA, 2nd amendment, gun brands, or even a graphic of a gun can cause eyes to be placed on a student, thus minimizing the concealment of students that are carrying.
While on campus, some students may find comfort in appendix carry. This is NOT about declaring one method of carry superior to others, but rather a practical option to campus carry. Whereas the repeated removing of a backpack, sitting, biking, and standing may cause a shirt to rise at the hips—something that is common to experience if you are active throughout the day. This can potentially leave your hips exposed without realizing it until you’ve walked past 50,000 students, potentially leaving your firearm exposed and leaving yourself open to interrogation by LEOs or outspoken students. Appendix carry solves this issue, having the firearm in the 12-1 o’clock position allows for constant reassurance that your firearm is covered, while bike riding and sitting. This main benefit may be more than enough to convince students to try appendix carry.
Additionally, many students may find that to be efficient and minimize the chance of being singled out in a crowd of students to minimize their EDC load out. Since many students are on campus from morning to night, a sample “student” EDC may consist of:
- Smaller framed handgun, preferably single stacked. Smaller calibers would permit a greater quantity of ammo to be carried, a 9mm might be ideal.
- One spare magazine/speed loader in case of malfunctions in a semi-auto handgun or to compensate for the lack of capacity.
- A small handheld flashlight ~100 or more lumens.
- A small pocket knife.
Dark colored clothing or clothing with patterns such as plaid or stripes help conceal firearms considerably more than lighter colored, single colored clothing.
When deciding to carry on campus, make a schedule and route of your days, figuring out where gun free zones are established.
Make a contingency plan for storing a firearm in your vehicle, if need be, safely.
Try to avoid discussing taboo topics such as firearms or gun culture to avoid being viewed as a potential concealed carry license holder.
Although it may be exciting when you first start carrying, avoid discussing it with friends. Only disclose, if need be, to closest friends and relatives.
If the statistic provided by the University of Texas holds true, and less than 1% of students carry, remember that. Remember that if you decide to carry on campus, you represent every student that wants to carry concealed. If you act irresponsibly, you not only represent yourself, but all of the other students that wish to carry. Since this legislature is rather young, these first years will serve as the trial run for campus carry. If we become riddled with negligent discharges, charges of carrying while intoxicated, and other scenarios that portray campus carry as “scary”, we might lose this great opportunity.
Remember that in large public universities, the possibility of active shooter or random acts of violence is real. Events have been occurring in recent years that have been previously been viewed as impossible. Should you decide to carry concealed, you need to be responsible and mentally work through scenarios and sequences of actions you might take.
Train well, practice realistically, practice the fundamentals of firearms safety, and practice trigger finger control.
Keep aware of your surroundings, the easiest way to avoid getting hurt is to keep aware and avoid dangerous situations.
When carrying concealed, ego is no longer at the forefront of your mind, it is being responsible and being the “bigger person”. Keep this in mind when walking in campus and potentially stumbling across students trying to act confrontational or that may be drunk.
Just because you carry does NOT MAKE YOU A HERO. DO NOT try to act like a hero. Be smart and if you see something, say something. Remember that a quick 911 phone call on a suspicious person does not waste time, money, or get you in trouble.