The Texas law is already ginning up controversy in other quarters, too: An emeritus professor at UT-Austin has announced he won't be teaching there in coming years citing safety concerns. Other administrators and university officials are trying to figure out how to implement the law without compromising student safety.
Texas isn't the only state to allow guns on campus. Seven other states have similar laws. Twenty-three states allow individual colleges and universities to set their own concealed-carry policy, while the remaining 19 ban concealed weapons outright, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Texas education officials will probably look to other states for lessons learned in carrying out their own gun policies. The bill's language provides administrators with some leeway. Notably, private colleges still have the option of prohibiting concealed weapons on campus. Public colleges can put forth specific rules regarding the storage of guns in dorm rooms and other broad safety measures, but they cannot "establish provisions that generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus of the institution."
Crucially, as with the other seven states allowing campus carry, only concealed handgun permit holders — who must be at least 21 years old — will be able to carry their firearms on campus. This means that the new law will not apply to most freshmen and sophomores.
But as in other states, Texas's law will create likely contradictions in campus dorm policies. At Texas A&M, the state's largest public university, for instance, candles, toasters and Nerf guns are expressly forbidden from students' dorm rooms — but real handguns will be allowed with a permit.
It might seem odd to many observers that telling a 21-year-old that we don't trust them to exercise good judgment when it comes to making toast but that keeping a handgun and potentially deciding when and how to apply lethal force is fine. But that's exactly where we find ourselves in Texas, Colorado and other states today.
The impact of Texas's new law likely will be negligible. UT-Austin estimates that fewer than 1 percent of its students have concealed-carry permits. Beyond that, many students at Texas colleges — 60 to 80 percent at some of the larger public universities — live off campus and there is already no prohibition against their gun ownership, concealed or otherwise. Colorado has had a similar campus carry law in place since 2003, with little to show for it in terms of negative consequences.
Texas's campus carry law is in many ways a quintessential piece of American gun legislation. It makes supporters gleeful, opponents enraged and is ultimately of very little consequence. But it provides ideal grandstanding fodder for advocates on both sides of the issue.