TX students adjust to gun laws

Updated: 2016-10-11 11:26

By China Daily in Houston(China Daily USA)

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Texas' controversial handguns in schools laws are still splitting opinions on campuses across the Lone Star State.

On one afternoon last month, Baylor University in Waco, Texas, issued a Twitter alert #Baylor to warn students and faculty about a shooting near the campus and advise them to seek shelter.

It was re-tweeted by more than 1,800 accounts, including some news organizations, and followed by comments.

"This is why #Baylor should've allowed campus carry. It's your only way to ensure your safety in an active shooter situation," wrote a tweeter named Will Crisp.

Another by the name of Dan Walden said: "The only thing that makes me happy about this active shooter situation is that we don't allow campus carry #Baylor."

The situation, which occurred on Sept 6, was cleared up an hour later without incident, but the polarized views show that the issue still stirs controversy two months after the campus carry law went into effect in Texas on Aug 1.

The Texas Senate Bill 11 (Campus Carry) allows holders of a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry a loaded handgun at four-year colleges and universities and junior colleges. The law goes into effect in private schools and two-year community colleges next year. The age limit is 21 and older.

Students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) organized a rally against campus carry on the first day of school, but campuses across the state are mostly quiet about the law.

Students are as divided as ever over the issue.

"As a first-generation Asian from Vietnam, I personally saw America as a non-violent country where safety is a given, not a choice," said Philip Ninh, a senior at the University of Houston (UH). "It's a one-sided battle of fear and that we need to do this to feel 'safe'. Instead of having students carrying guns, why don't we trust the campus police who are everywhere on campus to protect us?"

Some view campus carry as distraction. "I already have a hard time focusing on my classes and I don't need a gun to distract me more," said Alec Chi, a UH junior. "I agree that everyone has the right to protect themselves, but is a gun really necessary?"

Earlier this year the UH faculty senate urged its members to be careful discussing sensitive topics, drop certain topics from the curriculum and limit student access during off hours in response to the campus carry law. Campus carry was viewed to have the potential to curb free speech, a view echoed by Johnathan Esquivel, a sophomore at UH.

"I do not believe that controversial issues should be avoided just because a student may become agitated," said Esquivel.

The first campus carry incident occurred in mid-September when a gun was accidentally fired in a dorm at Tarleton State University. No one was harmed in the incident.

"I'm for campus carry because UH students experience multiple thefts every week on average," said Bao Pham, a senior. "I want to keep my friends safe."

"I wanted to get my concealed handgun license, but I don't turn 21 until next summer," said Kiana Muschlin, a sophomore at UH. "I will probably get one then."

"Most were worried about campus carry when school first started, but now students seem to have forgotten about it. This is probably because no campus shooting has happened yet," said Wu Wenyuan, a student.

"I just think it's really disappointing that there were campus-wide rallies last year when this legislation was being voted on and individuals who were aware of it were desperately trying to get others to act, but to no avail," said Joseph Stemmler, a junior at UT-Austin. It's a 'too little too late' scenario where now that it was passed everyone decided that they wanted to act. It's truly disheartening."

May Zhou and Tiffany Wang in Houston contributed to this story.