Orlando massacre raises UNT campus carry concerns

Orlando massacre raises UNT campus carry concerns

July 08
16:30 2016

Adalberto Toledo | Senior Staff Writer

@aldot29

Amid the shooting that left 50 dead at an Orlando nightclub, the tension surrounding the August 1 inception of the Texas campus carry law has been renewed.

During the vigil at the Denton Square, UNT associate professor of English Deborah Armintor gave an impassioned speech in front of dozens saying she would not allow concealed handguns in her classes.

“I’ve been told that’s illegal, but I don’t care when I think about guns on campus and vulnerable student communities like the LGBT community, women and domestic violence,” Armintor said at the vigil. “We shouldn’t live in fear, and I don’t want anybody on campus to walk in fear.”

Before the final comment period for the policy draft ended Feb. 8, Armintor had been vocal about her disagreement with the new law, which was passed as signed in June 2015. Since, campus carry has caused controversy across the state, with three University of Texas at Austin professors suing their university over the subject June 6 of this year.

Armintor said the Orlando shooting only affirmed her “long standing opposition” to guns on campus. In protest of the policy, she decided to write a statement on her syllabi last semester disallowing guns in her classroom, among other things. She understands it is a purely symbolic act though, as it would be impossible to enforce.

However symbolic, if the action was enforced, it would violate the law, according campus carry taskforce chairman Eric Fritsch.

“Guns are allowed inside the classroom,” Fritsch said. “Even if it’s symbolic, students may not recognize that.”

Fritsch said in order for action to be taken against a professor, a student would have to file a formal complaint. He said Armintor is not the only professor he has heard of that wants to challenge the policy in the classroom.

He added it would be treated as a violation of policy and referred to the university’s Provost, Finley Graves.

“We’ve got 800 faculty [members]. We don’t know what they’re all doing,” Fritsch said. “But in the end, that’s what it abounds to – breaking policy.”

Graves said the university is doing everything it can to follow the law and would not comment on any potential reaction the administration might have to a professor who challenges it.

“Whatever the law is we follow the law,” Graves said. “We have generated a policy on that. We do seek to follow that policy.”

UNT policy on campus carry says concealed handguns are allowed in lecture halls and classrooms, and it also lists the situations and locations where campus carry is disallowed, as well as where concealed handguns are prohibited. These locations are obligated to provide notice of prohibition.

It also states “all faculty, staff, students, guests, visitors, and individuals and organizations doing business on behalf of the university on the campus premises” must abide by the law.

Nevertheless, the issue for Armintor is the safety of her students in the classroom.

“I think it’s funny that I have the right as a professor to say ‘No ringing cell phones in the class,’ [or] ‘I don’t want dogs in the class,’ but not guns,” Armintor said. “I have the right to decide what goes in my classroom as long as I’m not violating somebody’s rights. I don’t believe that it’s a violation of someone’s rights to say that I don’t feel comfortable teaching in a classroom where concealed handguns are.”

Fritsch said UNT students and faculty have nothing to worry about, calling an attack on campus from a concealed handgun license holder “extraordinarily unlikely.” Referencing a study conducted by the FBI over a 13 year period analyzing 160 active-shooter incidents, he said only 39 of them occurred in education environments, which also accounted for some of the higher casualty counts.

The study also said an average of 11.4 incidents occurred annually, with an increasing trend from 2000 to 2013.  The study does not contain incidents with CHL holders.

“I don’t think we’ll see a bit of a difference,” Fritsch said. “It’s not the CHL people who are going to be an active shooter.”

For Armintor, the problem lies with the possibility of violence. The Orlando shooting showed her the randomness of an attack, and she said she would like to minimize the possibility of a shooting as much as possible.

The policy, she said, increases that threat.

“I understand of course that the weapons used in Orlando attack was an assault rifle, not a handgun,” Armintor said. “But the point is that this was with a gun that was legally obtained, and it just goes to show that all we need is one evil person whose ownership of a gun has been validated by law for a larger likelihood of violence.”

There is some controversy around the term assault weapon itself, but not assault rifle. Though regulating jurisdictions differ on their definition of an assault weapon, it does usually include the AR-15 rifle used in the Orlando attack. The AR-15 used, however, is not an assault rifle, as it does not have selective fire. The weapon can only shoot single rounds as the trigger is pulled, therefore is not classified as an automatic weapon.

Assault weapons will of course not be allowed on campus, with campus carry only applying to handguns. Regardless, Armintor feels guns on campus have no place in a university setting.

“Academia should be a place of peaceful open discourse, and even the possibility of violence, even the threat of violence, shuts down open discourse,” Armintor said. “I want my students to see how silly it is to have a gun in a classroom.”

Featured Image: UNT campus carry task force chair and criminal justice professor Eric Fritsch goes over the campus carry requirements at the first town hall style forum regarding the new law at the Gateway Center on Tuesday, Photo by Kristen Watson | Courtesy

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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Jim
    Dr. Jim July 11, 16:50

    Its been 2 1/2 decade since I wrote for this paper but I feel I must address your Concealed Carry rule. First, your rules will do nothing possitive while permitting cops to do pat downs of students, thus instigating a fear of police among the students. Is that your goal? Police are dying, black folk are being killed. Society just needs to learn the one rule that is 30 decades before Jesus: BE CALM.
    Here is the thing, kids carry guns and now are more secretive about it. Also recognize, the 18-22 age group are a large portion of the criminal justice system and your campus population. The other thing you need to recognize, college kids are genrally safe. They are not a prioblem community.
    Kids have guns, deal with it, accept it. Genrally, they do not come out of hiding. Altough, the phalus imagery evidently sways a few.

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