In Part 1, we took a look at the battle being waged over Texas’ new campus carry law. In this part, I want to present more information on what the new law means and why armed students don’t pose nearly the threat that has been predicted.
The law on campus carry requires the weapon to be concealed. Displaying the gun, other than by accident, is against the law. Depending on the circumstances, even removing the gun from its concealed location can be anything from a misdemeanor to a felony and is cause for the state to suspend or revoke the license.
The new law applies only to public colleges and universities. Private schools are still allowed to ban campus carry. Furthermore, public colleges are still allowed to control where firearms may be carried, other than certain areas the new law requires to be open.
A license to carry is required and the minimum age for a Texas Concealed Handgun License is 21. There is an exception for active military service personnel that allows a license to be issued at 18, but it only applies to those on full-time, active duty in one of the branches of the U.S. military.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, from 2011 to 2015 a total of 60,256 handgun licenses were issued to civilians between the ages of 21 and 25, typical student ages. (A CHL is good for five years so I wanted to be sure to cover that period to account for all licenses issued.)
Last year, there were 1,332,706 students enrolled at Texas public 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities. If every one of the licenses issued by the DPS went to a college student, that would mean that 4.5% of students had a gun license. Since that’s not the case, the actual percentage is likely to be much lower, probably between one and two percent at most. Add to that the fact that many of those licensed do not carry a firearm all the time, and the actual number of legally armed students on campus is likely to be less than one in a hundred.
Getting a license isn’t like sending in a couple of box tops. Every person applying for a handgun license in Texas must first complete and pass a training course that covers state laws on firearms and the use of deadly force as well as gun safety and they must demonstrate proficiency with a firearm. Everyone undergoes a thorough state background check. Any violations, other than traffic tickets, must be documented: even arrests that lead to an acquittal or the charges being dropped must be included on the application. Mental health records are also investigated. The DPS is allowed up to 90 days to conduct its investigation and either issue or deny a license. Being behind in child support or owing state taxes are causes for the application to be denied.
Despite its reputation as a state filled with gun-happy cowboys, the percentage of Texas’ population with CHLs is below the national average.
But the vetting seems to work. Out of 47,413 criminal convictions in Texas during 2014, just 111 involved a CHL holder. That’s about 0.23% of total convictions. The rate of convictions per 100,000 in the general population was 175.9; the rate per 100,000 concealed carry license holders was 13.4. If one compares the rate of CHL convictions to the general population, the rate is 0.03 per 100,000 Texans.
Seems to me that all the chest-thumping, hype, hysteria, malevolent fantasies and whatnot exists only in the minds of those gullible enough to believe it. And far too many have allowed legitimate concerns to turn into fear.
The reality is that merely having a gun doesn’t make you safer but it doesn’t turn you into some out-of-control psycho, either.
The law is what it is. It’s time for both sides to tone down the rhetoric and work on an implementation plan that respects a licensed student’s rights while respecting the safety and security of all students, faculty and staff.