That’s the distinction made repeatedly by several Austin Community College staffers as they work to form a policy around the law that says people can carry concealed guns on community college campuses with a license starting Aug. 1.
The law, passed by the 2015 Texas Legislature, calls for “reasonable restrictions” on the locations that concealed guns can be carried on college campuses.
Chris Cervini, who heads the ACC task force charged with creating the policy recommendations, said there’s a lot of confusion because open carry—which says licensed Texans can openly carry a handgun in certain public places, but not college campuses—was passed in the same legislative session as campus carry.
“The hope is that we can lessen the number of people who don’t understand,” he said.
The way to articulate that clarification is through a series of forums scheduled throughout April culminating in a release of the draft recommendations for implementing the law on ACC’s 11 (soon to be 12) campuses on April 28. ACC President Richard Rhodes must approve the policy before Aug. 1.
Cervini shared some of the recommendations yesterday during the first forum, including where some of the “exclusion zones”—areas on campus where concealed handguns aren’t permitted—should be.
Who can carry a concealed handgun?
Licensed gun carriers who are over 21, and members of the military who are over 18. At ACC, about 55 percent of the population makes up these demographics.
Where could concealed handguns potentially be excluded?
- Pre K-12 school-sponsored activity areas
- Polling places
- Sporting events
- Testing centers
- Outpatient medical care areas
- Mental health services areas
- Formal conduct hearing areas
- Labs or storage rooms with extremely dangerous chemical agents or explosives
- Programs and facilities for minors
Temporary exclusion zones can also be set up for instances in which certain groups, such as minors, are coming onto campus for a specific reason, such as a career fair.
“We’re going through each campus almost room by room to make determinations of what is an exclusion zone and what is not an exclusion zone,” Cervini said.
Where should I put my gun if I’m going into an exclusion zone?
ACC Police Chief Lynn Dixon recommends leaving it at home or in the car. The task force recommends lockers not be provided, and per the law, the gun must remain in close proximity to the licensed gun owner at all times.
“We want to avoid the handgun being handled as much as possible,” said Cobby Caputo, ACC's legal counsel.
What if I see someone’s gun?
People licensed to carry a handgun aren’t required to show their permit to anyone other than a law enforcement officer or a magistrate.
“If it bothers you, call the police. Let us investigate,” Dixon said.
What if there’s an active shooter on campus?
Dixon recommends not using your concealed handgun in an active shooter situation.
“I can’t explain how much tension is going to be there,” he said. “Keep that handgun concealed because, in a high-stakes situation, you’re going to get hurt.”
Will campus carry result in more active shooter situations?
According to statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety, licensed handgun holders made up less than 0.3 percent of total criminal convictions—108 out of 43,924—in the state in 2015.
What are people saying about campus carry?
- 5,373 survey respondents as of April 12
- 68 percent student respondents
- 16 percent staff respondents
- 15 percent faculty respondents
- 44 percent say they support the law or are neutral
- 56 percent oppose the law
How will the policy be enforced?
“We will be around like we always are, but we can’t just randomly walk up to someone and say, ‘Hey, do you have a handgun?’” said Dixon. He said the task force is developing training materials to educate licensed gun owners who may come onto campus, and the task force is finalizing the language on the signs that will be displayed at exclusion zones.
Is the policy, once approved, set in stone?
No. Cervini said it is a living document and can change at any time with approval from the ACC board of trustees.
“We need to get past Aug. 1 to see what’s working and what’s not working,” he said.