Open Carry is not Campus Carry

Activists held an open carry rally at the Texas state capital on Jan. 1, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Eric Gay / AP Photo

Activists held an open carry rally at the Texas state capital on Jan. 1, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Alyssa Foley, Editor in Chief

The Texas Open Carry law went into effect Jan 1, but that does not mean you can bring a gun to any Houston Community College campus.

House Bill 910 permits Concealed Handgun License holders to visibly carry handguns in Texas. This law does not allow anyone without a handgun license to open carry. It also does not allow those who do have a handgun license to openly carry on any college campus. No open carry is permitted on any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or parking area of the college.

“Right now, you may never carry a gun openly on a campus,” said HCC Police Chief Greg Cunningham to student leaders at the United Student Council meeting on Jan. 15.

It’s still illegal to carry a weapon into places such as schools, courtrooms, airports, post offices, etc. The only thing this law changed is that where license holders were permitted to carry a gun before, they may now carry it openly instead of concealed.

“Basically, all they said was, ‘Take your jacket off,’” said Chief Cunningham.

There is some confusion between this open carry law which went into effect Jan. 1, and the new campus carry law. There are two separate laws and three implementation dates.

Texas Senate Bill 11 will allow Concealed Handgun License holders to carry a concealed or hidden gun in particular areas on college campuses. The campus carry law does not go into effect for Texas public four-year institutions until Aug. 1, 2016. Meanwhile, guns are still illegal on the campuses of public two-year institutions like HCC until Aug. 1 of 2017.

Until August of 2017, no firearms are allowed at HCC. If you see anyone carrying a firearm on campus, stay calm and call the HCC Police Department emergency number immediately at 713-718-8888.

If anyone is caught carrying a weapon on campus, HCC police’s approach will be to educate that individual on the law. “Our approach to this thing is going to be non-confrontational to the best of our ability,” stated Chief Cunningham, “If they’re a jerk, or they choose not to [listen], then things get ugly and we start arresting people.” Violating open carry laws may result in a Class A misdemeanor.

It’s important to note that campus carry will only allow for concealed carry by handgun license holders. “Even after it’s OK to have guns on campus, they can’t be openly carried,” explained Cunningham, “concealed [carry] is you can’t tell I have a gun.”

Both of these laws only affect how and where Concealed Handgun License Holders may pack heat. A person is eligible to apply to the state for a CHL license if they are over the age of 21; have never been convicted of a felony; have not been convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor in the past five years; and is fully qualified under federal and state law to purchase a handgun, among other requirements. Applicants must also pass a state gun-safety course to obtain a license.

How do you feel about campus carry?

  • I support it (44%, 25 Votes)
  • I'm a CHL and I'll carry on campus (26%, 15 Votes)
  • I don't like it (18%, 10 Votes)
  • I don't think it's a big deal (5%, 3 Votes)
  • I'm going to Austin next January to lobby against it (5%, 3 Votes)
  • What is campus carry? (2%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 57

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HCC can decide to make particular parts of campus gun free—with the state legislature’s approval.

For example, the child care center at the Central campus could be designated as a gun-free zone, but the entire HCC central campus cannot be made gun-free under the law simply because it has a childcare center. HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado has started a Campus Carry Committee to decide the details of the college’s campus carry policy.

When campus carry goes into effect, the HCC Police Department cannot require CHL students or staff to register with the department, nor can they require individuals to take a gun safety class. “I cannot infringe on your right in any way,” noted Cunningham. The HCC Police Department plans on developing classes closer to the campus roll out date. The classes would focus on gun-safety and what to do in an active shooter scenario.

The Texas State Legislature re-convenes in January 2017, months before campus carry goes into effect for public two-year colleges. “Somebody might be able to get them to change this thing,” said Chief Cunningham, who admitted that he opposed the campus carry legislation because he believes it’s a bad idea. “Don’t plan on it, but we at least have a chance.”

In the Chancellor’s September memo on the campus carry legislation, Dr. Maldonado stated that, “HCC will seek input from our many stakeholder groups, including faculty, staff and students, to responsibly assess our options for adherence to the law, while protecting the safety of those whom we serve on our campuses.”

As the president of the United Student Council, Josue Rodriguez is the student body president for all of HCC’s 60 thousand plus students. Rodriguez is one of the three students named to the Campus Carry Committee, along with student government leaders Alejandra Soto and Marcos Barron.

United Student Council President Josue Rodriguez is one of the student representatives on the Chancellor's Campus Carry Committee.
Thomas Hopkins
United Student Council President Josue Rodriguez is one of the student representatives on the Chancellor’s Campus Carry Committee.

“My role has been just basically adding student input,” Rodriguez explained. “My main priority is to first, inform students [about the law]. And then second, to find out what students in every campus think the policy should be. And then third, present that to the Campus Carry Committee.”

Rodriguez believes that “we need to get more student input” than simply the three students on the committee. He said it’s important that students know that they can express their opinions on the future HCC policy on campus carry.

With the help of the college administration, he would like to create an online survey in order to ask students what they think the policy should be. Rodriguez, a student at the HCC Honors College at the Central campus, wants to have student contributions from across town so that “every campus would be represented in that statement” to the committee. He said that he aims to have the survey up and running by the end of this month.

Rodriguez said that the committee’s goal is “making sure we have a draft policy close to the end of this semester.” They want to discuss some legal aspects of the policy before this summer’s campus carry rollout date for four-year institutions, because HCC has a UT-Tyler satellite program for engineering hosted at the Alief-Hays campus.