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Under New Campus Carry Rules, Texas A&M to Permit Handguns in Classrooms, Dorms

Texas A&M University's proposed new campus carry rules include few major restrictions for handguns and will allow the weapons in classrooms and dormitories.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Texas A&M University's proposed new campus carry rules include few major restrictions for handguns and will allow the weapons in classrooms and dormitories.

The proposed rules have been approved by Chancellor John Sharp and A&M System legal staff. They will be reviewed by the A&M System Board of Regents later this month. State law doesn't require board approval of campus carry rules, but it does allow regents to amend the rules if they disagree with them. 

The smaller universities in the A&M System will also allow guns in classrooms and dorms, with three exceptions. Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M International University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi each have dorms that are leased by third-party companies. Those companies will be able to decide on their own whether they want to ban guns in their facilities. 

The rules are designed to comply with the state's campus carry law, which was approved last year and goes into effect Aug. 1. The law allows concealed license holders to carry their weapons on campus in most cases. But universities are allowed to declare some limited areas gun-free, as long as those areas don't have the effect of making it impossible to carry a gun on campus.

In Texas, concealed handgun licenses are only available to people over the age of 21, so many undergraduates will still be unable to carry guns.

The law generated strong opposition from some university leaders, especially officials affiliated with the University of Texas System. But administrators at A&M have never expressed much concern. Sharp said in a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick before the law was approved last year that that he didn't have any problem with the idea. 

"Do I trust my students, faculty and staff to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home?" Sharp wrote. "Of course I do!" 

That attitude appears to be reflected in the rules. The law has prompted many professors and gun control supporters across the state to call for bans in classrooms, dormitories and professors' offices. Most public universities have opted not to ban guns in classrooms, but a few, including the University of Texas at Austin, have imposed bans in certain dormitories and other places. Most private universities, which have a choice of whether to comply with the law, have chosen to opt out.

Read MoreWhere Texas’ Private Universities Stand on Campus Carry

A&M appears to be making little effort to ban guns in places where they wouldn't already be banned by the law. A&M will ban them at sporting events, child care facilities and places where student disciplinary hearings are held. Facilities on the campus that are leased by private companies will be allowed to make their own decisions about whether they want to ban guns. 

A&M's rules were largely written by a task force appointed by university President Michael Young. But in a letter to the campus community Wednesday, Young said he made one minor change. 

The task force, he said, suggested giving faculty the chance to ban guns in their individual offices. Young tweaked that to allow such a ban with his approval if the employee "has demonstrated that the carrying of a concealed handgun by a license holder in the office presents a significant risk of substantial harm due to a negligent discharge of the handgun," according to the proposed rules.

Young noted in his letter that he opposed campus carry when it was approved in Utah while he was the president of the University of Utah in 2004. His position on the idea "is a matter of public record," he said. 

Still, he said he plans to implement the law "as efficiently and smoothly as possible."

"As President of Texas A&M, I am deeply committed to creating the optimal environment for learning, discovery and work," he wrote. "At the same time, as a state institution, we are subject to the demands of the law and will necessarily comply."

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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