Concealed Gun Bill Sparks Debate

Forty-three years after the infamous sniper shootings from the University of Texas tower in Austin, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Texas Republican Sens. Joe Driver and Jeff Wentworth are drafting the bill authorizing guns on college campuses in the name of student safety.

The idea for the gun law was proposed by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a national student organization formed after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. The group has since attracted the support of more than 30,000 students and faculty nationwide. The group's Texas chapter lobbied heavily for legislative action.

"During the last legislative session, 15 states introduced bills about this and all of them failed," said Michael Guzman, president of the national student group. "Now Indiana, North Dakota and Texas are all introducing it again."

Public Safety vs. Added Danger

The proposed legislation has renewed the gun debate at the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman's 1966 sniping rampage from the college's landmark tower remained the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history until the Virginia Tech massacre.

Those who support the bill as a public safety measure are opposed by those who feel it would introduce added dangers.

John Woods, a molecular biology graduate student at UT and a Virginia Tech alumnus, says that more guns mean more opportunities for violence.

"I think they are sort of trying to speculate about the future in a way that is not entirely possible," Woods said.

Woods graduated three weeks after the Virginia Tech shootings, which killed 32 students and faculty including his girlfriend and many other close friends. Since coming to the University of Texas, he has given motivational talks and become an activist against gun violence. Woods doesn't talk about the incident. He only talks about the issue that it has raised in his life.

When Woods heard about the proposed Texas bill to allow guns on campus, then discovered 15 other states were attempting similar legislation, he introduced a resolution to the UT Student Government that would ban concealed weapons at the university. The resolution unanimously passed.

"It is a matter of students not wanting guns on campus," Woods said. "It is true in America and in Texas: Over 94 percent of people don't want guns on campus."

Although Woods emotionally connects with the issue of guns on campus, he based the majority of his opinions on the Virginia Tech investigational report completed after the shootings.

The report highlights the fact that the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, was able to purchase a weapon despite a ban on gun sales to those declared dangerous to themselves or others. Because Cho was an outpatient at a mental institution, his background check cleared. No background check is required nationally or locally to buy ammunition.

The board report also noted that the outcome of the Virginia Tech shootings may have been worse if students were bearing arms.

"Of course if numerous people had been rushing around with handguns outside Norris Hall on the morning of April 16, the possibility of accidental or mistaken shootings would have increased significantly," the report said. "Anyone emerging from a classroom at Norris Hall holding a gun would have been shot."

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