The Lone Star State’s credo, “Don’t Mess with Texas,” demonstrates a vigilante ideal that has come to define the state. But recent legislation displays the danger that cowboy values can create.
The Texas state legislature will soon vote upon a bill that would allow students and professors to carry concealed handguns on college campuses. Supported as a means for self-defense against deranged campus shooters, passage of the bill will instead make universities far more dangerous areas.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), who authored the bill, said that the new law would make students safer during a campus shooting like the one that occurred at Virginia Tech in 2007.
“I would feel personally guilty if I were to wake up some morning and find out [that] on some Texas college campus, a similar tragedy had happened,” Wentworth said in a Feb. 21 Associated Press article. “They were picked off like sitting ducks in the classroom.”
While the senator’s argument rests upon college students’ rights to protect themselves against campus gunmen, it ignores two important factors: the danger of co-opting students as vigilantes and the rights of students to live in gun-free environments.
Wentworth argued that the new legislation is about self-defense, but a further investigation of this argument reveals a terrifying truth. In the case of a school shooting, Wentworth’s desired legislation would, in line with his cowboy ideal, allow other students to gun down the gunman.
Yet unlike Wentworth, Colin Goddard, who was shot four times during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, argued that the concealed weapons would not make universities safer.
“I was there that day,” he said last week while arguing against the bill at the Texas Capitol. “It was the craziest day of my life, with one person walking around with two guns. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like with multiple students and multiple guns.”
Goddard’s first-hand account should resonate with legislators — especially senators like Wentworth who claim to be fighting for victims’ safety during campus shootings. But lawmakers continue to push the legislation, despite the fact that University of Texas’ student government, graduate student assembly and faculty advisory council have all come out against the bill.
The Texas Legislature should not fight another battle in the war on guns on college campuses. The university should be a place for learning, not a place for violence.
Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), who voted against the bill, argued in the same Feb. 21 Associated Press article that the bill unwisely legitimizes “campus Rambos.”
“It makes us feel like we’ve gotten tough — deputizing students — but the fact is that the universities don’t want it, and law enforcement doesn’t want it, because they know it will not make our campuses safer,” he said.
Texas lawmakers can’t let cowboy ideals get in the way of truly protecting campus safety. They should vote against Wentworth’s ill-advised bill.