Thanks to a new state law, properly licensed college students, faculty and visitors across Texas will be allowed to carry their concealed guns into campus buildings beginning Monday. But that right will be mostly limited to public schools. All but one private university have opted out of the state's controversial campus carry law.
Over the past few months, 37 private universities — ranging from major research institutions like Rice University to small religious schools like Lubbock Christian University — chose to continue banning guns, which they are allowed to do under the new law. The lone school to opt in is Amberton University, a small, nonprofit school based in Garland.
Amberton officials didn't return repeated calls and e-mails seeking comment this week. But on the school's website, the school cited the nontraditional nature of the university, which has small campuses in Frisco and Garland.
"Amberton University’s enrollment is limited to the mature, working adult seeking to finish a bachelor’s degree or to begin or complete graduate studies," the site says.
Students take many of their courses online through the no-frills university, which bills itself as a "university designed for working adults." Enrollment is restricted to students 21 and older. There are no dorms, social clubs, sports teams or dining halls, the site notes.
"Considering the unique nature of the Amberton student and the campus environment, Amberton University will comply with Senate Bill 11 allowing individuals holding valid handgun licenses to carry their concealed handguns onto the Amberton campuses and premises," the website says.
Two other schools, East Texas Baptist University and Southwestern Assemblies of God University, are mostly opting out but will allow some faculty or staff to carry guns. At East Texas Baptist, workers will be able to carry if they receive approval from the university president, submit to a psychological evaluation and participate in annual active shooter response training. At Southwestern Assemblies of God, faculty and staff will have to apply to carry guns.
The rest of the schools have said a firm "no." At Rice, university President David Leebron said "there is no evidence that allowing the carrying of guns on our campus will make the campus safer." Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell told the Tribune last year that "I don’t ever want to be a college president who has to call a parent and tell them that their child has been shot on campus."
Public universities don't have the choice. Anyone with a concealed handgun license in Texas will be allowed to carry their weapons in most buildings, including classrooms and dining halls. Opponents of the law point to the private schools' resistance to opting in as a sign that it's a bad law. But supporters say that's irrelevant.
Last year, the bill's author, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, told the Texas Tribune that private schools have the right to ban guns from their property. Public schools are state property, so they have to comply with the Second Amendment, he said.
"The reason there is a difference between public and private universities is it's the people of state of Texas that own the University of Texas System," Birdwell said. "That is why they have got to do this."