Gun control debate sparks at SGA forum
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:02
An on-campus concealed carry bill filed in the Student Government Association was grounds for discussion during a special open forum SGA meeting on Tuesday. SGA members, students, faculty, and staff voiced their concern over the intentions and implications of allowing concealed handgun license holders in buildings on campus, as well as other options for personal protection.
Caucus Chair for the College of Business Josh Beaman filed SB13-02 on Feb. 5 in an effort to tell lawmakers in Austin that Sam Houston State University wants to make it legal to carry on campus. The bill states that in accordance with upcoming legislation, students, faculty, and staff with a CHL will be able to lawfully carry a concealed handgun inside buildings and on other campus property where it is hitherto prohibited.
Opposition came quickly as the microphone was opened to audience members.
“Upon hearing about this new bill made me very uncomfortable,” said Emily Vega, senior English major. “I’m incredibly uncomfortable with more guns on campus. I understand the intent… and sentiment behind it, but it makes me uncomfortable because… as numerous sources state, more guns lead to more violence.”
Vega said that UPD “kind of doesn’t do their job all the time. There are people who park on campus without parking passes. So if they’re not going to give those guys tickets, what makes you think they’re going to up their security [with more guns on campus]?”
In attendance to the meeting was Sgt. Ron Cleere of UPD, who chose to participate in the forum. Preceding a roar of laughter, Cleere said, “As for the parking situation goes, we write as many tickets as we can.”
In a serious statement, Cleere said that he had issues with some of the wording in the bill and took “personal offense” to it.
“To say that somebody [with a gun] can come onto campus and be completely unopposed, I find that to be a fallacy,” said Cleere. “When the final version of this comes along, I’d like to see that changed.”
Cleere said that despite the safety statistics mentioned in the bill, there have only been two mass shootings on college campuses in the last ten years. While the rate of incidents is low, Cleere said that is no reason to not be prepared.
“Several law enforcement agencies [including UPD] are already conducting training to handle mass shooting events on college campuses,” said Cleere. “We are taking an active part in doing what we can to respond and prevent these things.”
College of Criminal Justice Sen. Spencer Copeland supports the bill, and wishes to see it passed.
“I do believe that the school would be generally safer if we allowed concealed carry on campus,” said Copeland.
Copeland cited a shooting in San Antonia on Dec. 16, in which an aggravated ex-boyfriend took vengeance against his ex-girlfriend by shooting at her in a restaurant before fleeing to a neighboring theatre and opening fire once again.
The senator’s point was made by the fact that the gunman was stopped by an off-duty police officer who was carrying and shot the assailant four times before he was able to cause any casualties.
“It’s not a perfect system,” said Copeland. “To be in a perfect world we would have no guns ever… but that’s not going to happen. I do believe that this is part of a step [towards working] other issues, and there are other things we can do other than just this. But I think this is a part of what we can do fix the issue.”
Dean of Students Yarabeck concluded the meeting with statements about how SHSU is a safe school with statistics to show it.
According to a 2010 survey on TheDailyBeast.com, SHSU ranked number 27 in the Top 50 Safest Colleges, outranking Texas A&M, whose own campus gun bill is already in effect, at number 38.
Although he said that he wouldn’t state his opinion on the guns bill, Yarabeck said, “Think about if you could actually shoot somebody. Could you actually do it? Law enforcement people have a hard time doing that even when they’ve gone through all the training…”