How UT Austin Created Its Campus Carry Policy

Working with stakeholders across campus is the best way to make a policy for concealed guns on college campuses.

More and more states are drafting and passing laws that allow concealed handguns on college campuses. But how should colleges create campus carry policies?

A Texas campus carry law went into effect for four year colleges on Aug. 1, 2016. The law takes effect for junior colleges and two-year universities on Aug. 1, 2017.

The law allows people over the age of 21 with a concealed carry permit to bring guns into classrooms, dorms and other campus buildings, although each school may identify “sensitive areas and buildings” on campus where guns are prohibited.

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Texas became the eighth state to adopt a campus carry policy, and since it’s passage other states have passed or considered passing similar campus carry laws.

Creating policies for guns on campus can be an overwhelming task for school officials not familiar with local gun laws or best practices for gun safety, so we spoke with UT Austin Police Chief David Carter about his campus’s process for developing concealed carry policies.

Making a Concealed Carry Policy for College Campuses

UT Austin President Gregory Fenves began by forming a Campus Carry Policy Working Group in the fall of 2015 to recommend policies for the law.

A total of 25 policy recommendations were formally submitted to Fenves in December and, after two months of review and feedback, Fenves decided to implement the recommendations (read all of the recommendations here).

RELATED: With Concealed Carry Laws, Operational Uncertainties Confuse School Administrators

Fenves then established a Campus Concealed Carry Implementation Task Force to “operationalize” the Working Group’s concealed carry recommendations and develop specific guidelines, rules and practices, including crafting the language for signage on campus.

A follow up committee was later established to review the Task Force’s recommendations, and the final policy was subject to final approval by the Board of Regents.

The committees consisted of representatives from the following departments:

  • Campus Safety and Security
  • Police Department
  • University Communications Department
  • Facilities
  • Animal Research
  • Early Childcare and Charter School
  • Housing and Food
  • Athletics
  • Dean fo Students
  • Legal
  • Deans of all 18 Colleges
  • President’s Office
  • Compliance Office
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Parents Association
  • Technology Resources for University Operations
  • Youth Protection Program
  • Fire Services
  • Student Judicial Services
  • Provost Office
  • University Libraries
  • Mental Health and Counseling

College Campus Carry Considerations

Chief Carter says one of the most significant considerations for the committees was deciding how to best educate the campus community about the change in law and the campus’s new policies around it.

Eventually the school created a webpage devoted to dispersing information and messaging about campus carry policies to the community.

Communication is especially important when dealing with a politicized subject like gun rights. Campus Safety has reported on multiple campus protests in response to the new law.

“Be prepared for much political debate from pro and con advocates from opposite sides of the spectrum,” Chief Carter says.

Carter says there was “significant political activity” during the legislative session when the law was being drafted, but that activity died down after the law went into effect. Now Carter says there’s an “occasional resurgence” in political activity after high profile crimes occur.

“People stress both that the law would have helped, and would have hindered [efforts to stop the crime],” Chief Carter says.

But despite much debate among gun rights and gun control advocates, Chief Carter says UTPD has responded to very few firearms calls since the law was implemented.

“UTPD has responded to perhaps two calls since law went to effect,” Chief Carter says. “One a case of an individual possibly showing a handgun to a friend in an area where weapons were prohibited, and two where an individual dropped a magazine in a public area. Neither incident resulted in charges being filed due to lack of intent, evidence or witness.”

Chief Carter says UTPD has also not changed it’s policing methods since the law went into effect because campus police have been dealing with licensed handgun holders for over a decade.

So although campus carry policies come with significant political baggage, school officials’ general approach to crafting them are simple: Adhere to the law while maximizing the safety of your campus.

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About the Author

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Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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