HOUSTON — Many students at the University of Houston who support allowing guns on campus told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that they have their own concerns about the law.
“If I know there’s a gun in the room, I always feel the need to take control of it. I don’t trust anyone but myself,” Garrett, 22, a construction management senior from Texas who declined to give his last name, told BuzzFeed News.
“But still, everyone has the right to protect themselves,” he added.
Students at UH began their second week of classes on Monday. It’s the first semester of school after Senate Bill 11 — known as the campus carry law — went into effect.
The law allows students at state universities in Texas who have licenses to carry concealed handguns to bring those weapons anywhere on campus, with the exception of “exclusion zones.” These zones include the majority of dorms, some research centers, and any religious centers, areas with children, and health centers.
Before the law went into effect, UH created a task force of students, staff, and faculty to figure out how to implement the law. They designated exclusion zones and “secure storage areas” where students can leave firearms while they are in gun-free spaces. So far, the only official storage area is in the UH police department, which is located on the edge of campus — far away from the majority of class buildings and residence halls.
The task force received around 2,500 emails from the campus community expressing “a wide range of emotions and concerns,” UH executive director of media relations Michael S. Rosen told BuzzFeed News. And a number of students and professors — including the president of UH’s faculty senate, Jon Snow — have spoken out against the law.
Still, many students believe in the law and say they would even carry themselves. But it’s hard to find students who say there are no flaws in the law — or in the way UH is implementing it — or students who will say they are in fact carrying. Some students who support the law also said their primary concern is other students who now have the right to carry.
Tony Brown, 20, told BuzzFeed News that he plans on carrying himself when he gets his license in November, but that he doesn’t trust other students to carry. “College students aren’t very mature,” he said. “The slightest issue could escalate very quickly.”
UH has a high number of veterans on its campus — around 1,800 of the school’s total 42,738 students, according to the UH Office of Veteran Services — and many of them told BuzzFeed News they support the law.
“Even if I was [carrying], I wouldn’t tell you,” Harrison R., a 30-year-old Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, told BuzzFeed News. “It would give away my tactical advantage.”
“There’s a lot of socioeconomic issues in this area, a lot of crime. Students who are vulnerable to that should be able to carry,” Harrison said, sitting in the center for veteran student services. “Everyone has the constitutional right to defend themselves. There’s no reason that should be suspended in this space. It’s arbitrary.”
Even so, Harrison said, he would prefer that those carrying would go “above and beyond” the training required by the law.
Enoch, a 36-year-old Army veteran and business major, agreed that people who plan to use their guns to defend themselves in case of a school shooting, for example, should be highly trained. “You don’t want people accidentally shooting the innocent people around them and leaving the bad guy, just because they’ve never really shot before,” he said.
What worried him even more, he said, was the possibility of what he called “friendly fire” in the exclusion zones. “On military deployment, there are gun-free safe zones like that,” Enoch said.
“Once an Afghan soldier — he was a friend, he just got angry and snapped — took a gun and went into a zone where no one had them, and he was able to kill more people because of that,” he said. “I don’t want that happening here.”