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Sul Ross Dean of Student Life: Campus Carry "Probably Doesn't" Lead to Safer Environment

Sul Ross State University in Alpine, TX (Mark Goebel via Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

The Dean of Student Life at Sul Ross State University in Alpine said in an interview Monday that while he personally believes Texas’ new “campus carry” law is “pretty convoluted”, has “a lot of flaws” and “probably doesn’t” make for a safer campus environment, the consensus among decision-makers was that it wouldn’t really affect daily life on the campus.

Still, Leo Dominguez said there was some internal debate among a committee tasked with implementing the law, and within the university’s Student Government Association.

“The students that have been around guns, that enjoy shooting and all this other stuff, they’re pretty much pro-gun, so they were excited about it,” he said. “The ones that had never been around guns, I don’t think they thought too much about it, and didn’t think it was going to affect their lives.

“Now, if they did have a definite thought about it, it was probably going to be that it was going to make it unsafer because other people have guns,” Dominguez added. “But then the discussion went to, ‘well, there’s people right now that are carrying guns, and you don’t have an idea,’ which was true. It’s been an interesting debate.”

In the interview, Dominguez initially said the university’s Campus Carry Task Force had decided to not add extra restrictions on the new law because it didn’t have the ability to exempt areas like classrooms or offices. Later, he clarified that the college did in fact have the option to do that, but chose not to out of concern the state legislature would later invalidate those exemptions.

As the Texas Tribune explains, even without campus-specific restrictions, the new law still limits concealed carry in certain parts of colleges statewide:

The law still bans guns in sports arenas. And it also allows schools to impose bans in a few other areas. You won’t be able to take your gun to an on-campus daycare facility. You won’t be able to take your gun to a research lab where dangerous chemicals are stored. But guns will be allowed in classrooms and student unions. For dorms, it depends on the campus.

Sul Ross and three other colleges within the Texas State University System did not set up campus-specific restrictions on the law, though “limited restrictions” were approved at the system’s three largest schools - Texas State in San Marcos, Sam Houston State in Huntsville and Lamar University in Beaumont.

Dominguez said there has been some amount of internal pushback on how the law is being implemented, though it hasn’t been as dramatic as protests at colleges like the University of Texas in Austin.

“It hasn’t been as vocal and as loud as of course UT, because out there they have people resigning and quitting and - it’s a show, putting on whatever they’re doing, and their sentiments are real strong about it,” he said.

“[At Sul Ross], the people that don’t want guns or don’t like guns or aren’t comfortable around guns, they’d rather not have it, and the ones that are comfortable are saying, ‘it’s not that big a deal.’”

It’s not clear how many students or staff will take advantage of the new law, but the amount of people that even can is limited: the law only allows those with a concealed carry license to bring handguns on campus, and a person has to be 21 or older to get a concealed carry license (that rule doesn’t apply to active-duty members of the military.)

With the fall semester approaching, Dominguez couldn’t say for sure whether the university’s campus carry policies will be discussed in freshman orientation, but he said they certainly wouldn’t be ignored.

In the meantime, he still has doubts about the law’s intention of making campuses safer.

“When things are gonna happen, they happen in an instant, and all the sudden, everybody pulls out their guns, I guess,” Dominguez said.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.