SMU opens campus carry discussion to students, faculty, staff

During the last Texas legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 11, commonly known as the “campus carry” law. It was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in June. The law allows anyone with a concealed handgun license to carry their weapon on public university campuses. No campuses have to permit open carry of weapons. The law fully goes into effect Aug. 1, 2016.

Private universities can opt out of the law and ban concealed carry on campus, but the law first requires a community discussion to take place surrounding this issue.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner called for input from students, faculty and staff in a campus wide email Thursday. The SMU community will be able to submit its comments on this issue via a digital form. The online portal will be open for at least five weeks, according to SMU general counsel Paul Ward.

“While the final ‘opt out’ decision rests with me, your feedback is important,” Turner said in the email. “Thanks to each of you for the role you play in maintaining a safe and welcoming campus for all.”

SMU has had a weapons-free policy since at least 1994. University Policy 10.5 prohibits the possession of any dangerous weapon on SMU property.

Representatives from the SMU Offices of Legal Affairs, Student Affairs, Business and Finance and Police have met with Faculty Senate, Student Senate and SMU Staff Advocacy Council.

“The feedback from these meetings was valuable,” Turner said in the email.

Ward has been giving presentations on campus regarding the legal principles of Senate Bill 11. He has visited both Faculty Senate and Student Senate chambers.

“It’s safe to say that most faculty are opposed,” said Matthew Willson, political science professor and Faculty Senate member.

Tracy Nelson, senior and chair of Student Senate’s finance committee, thinks the student population could end up split on this issue.

“I’m seeing a regional divide,” Nelson said. “I feel like students who are from Texas will be more comfortable with it. It’s not that way for non-natives.”

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