FORT WORTH – Students and guest speakers at a Thursday evening forum lamented what they saw as misperceptions of firearms as they advocated for Texas Christian University to allow concealed firearms on campus.
The session was hosted by TCU's College Republicans as part of conservative women leaders group Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute's Texas Women's Summit and featured speakers state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth, and sexual assault survivor Amanda Collins.
“Guns are thought of as scary,” said Lydia Longoria, TCU College Republicans treasurer and a concealed handgun license holder. “It’s a tool women can use to protect themselves. I’ve learned what it means to own a gun, have a gun and the respect that comes with having it.”
The event came as TCU is deciding whether to opt out of Senate Bill 11, the campus carry law passed this spring that requires public colleges and universities to allow people with handgun licenses to carry their weapons at school starting Aug. 1. The administration is soliciting feedback from the community until the end of the month, after which the school's board of trustees is expected to make a decision.
"I feel comfortable with anybody that’s on campus with a gun,” said David Laughlin, a freshman business major. “I don’t think anybody would be a threat."
Opponents of the new law say that college campuses, already known for being stressful environments, are not the place for firearms. But students at the talk said they see guns differently.
“I’ve been raised around guns,” Laughlin said. “I’ve been comfortable with them all my life.”
Eleven reported sexual assaults on campus last year also bolster an argument TCU student-advocates use for concealed handguns.
“It’s important to remember that TCU is 60 percent women,” Longoria said.
Eight years ago Thursday, Collins was sexually assaulted in a campus parking garage, she said. A graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, she detailed her sexual assault at the hands of a gunman on her campus. Collins said had she had her gun — which she had left at home because the campus was a gun-free zone — she might have stopped her attacker and prevented future attacks.
Collins said a college campus should not be seen as a place with easy targets nor a place where the Second Amendment is denied.
“How does rendering me defenseless protect you?” Collins said she asks supporters of opting out of the campus carry law.
Burton said her job as a legislator is to protect the people’s rights, and that includes the Second Amendment. She also lamented that campus carry legislation did not go far enough, citing restrictions on where guns will be allowed. Public schools have the option to designate some parts of their campuses as "gun-free zones," and private schools are allowed to opt out entirely.
Across the state, private institutions are weighing the decision of whether to opt out. Leaders from Trinity University in San Antonio, Austin College in Sherman and Paul Quinn College in Dallas said during the Texas Tribune Festival that their campuses likely will opt out next year. Rice University President David Leebron said discussion is still happening at his school.
At TCU, students, faculty and staff governmental bodies have offered opinions, the university has held forums and debates and an email account for comments has been set up. Which way the campus will go is still unknown, a representative for the university said.
Disclosure: Rice University was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2013. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.