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University of Texas allows guns in classrooms

Updated by admin on Friday, February 19, 2016 01:00 AM IST

Texas: Concealed handguns will be allowed in University of Texas classrooms but generally banned from dorms under rules approved on February 17 by the school’s president, whose hand was forced by a new state law.

Like many who study or work at the school in liberal Austin, president Greg Fenves opposed allowing guns on the roughly 50,000-student campus. Texas’ universities had been gun-free zones under the state’s previous concealed handgun laws, but the Republican-dominated Legislature voted last year to force public universities to allow license holders to bring their guns to campus starting August 1.

“I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date,” Fenves said in announcing his decision to adopt rules recommended by a campus study group in December.

Gun-rights activists insist the right to have weapons on campus falls under the Second Amendment and they call it a measure of critical self-defence.

Private schools are allowed to keep banning weapons. Fenves noted most have opted to do so, including Baylor, Rice, Southern Methodist and Texas Christian universities, the largest and most influential private schools in the state.

State lawmakers allowed public universities to carve out some gun-free zones as long as it didn’t result in a campus-wide ban. Fenves said a blanket ban on guns in classrooms would have violated the law.

In most cases, a person must be over 21 years old to get a gun license in Texas, which trims the gun—carrying student population a bit. And while licensed students will be allowed to bring their handguns to class, they won’t be able to do so openly. A separate law that allows the open carry of handguns doesn’t apply to college campuses.

Gun—Free UT, a group of students, faculty and staff, has said allowing guns in classrooms will create a threatening atmosphere and chill free speech in academics. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg has said he will put into his syllabus that his class is not open to students carrying guns.

The rules were criticized by gun rights groups as well. Students for Concealed Carry objected to exceptions that allow teacher offices to be gun free and a requirement that semi—automatic weapons not have a round in the chamber. The group threatened to sue for changes.
Laboratories will also remain gun—free. So also areas or events that involve school—age children. State law still prohibits weapons at sporting events.

Guns will generally be banned from dorm rooms. However, they will be allowed in residence hall common areas such as dining rooms and study areas.

Family members who are licensed to carry can carry their weapons while visiting students. University staff members who are licensed to carry may also hold onto their weapons if they enter a dorm.

The rules now go to the University of Texas System Regents for review. The rules will be final if no changes are made within 90 days.

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