Just 24 hours after refuting Senator Rodney Ellis’s (D-Houston) claim that legalizing licensed concealed carry (of handguns) on Texas college campuses would cost public colleges millions in increased insurance premiums, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is prepared to call out another Texas Senator for playing fast and loose with the facts.
Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) has repeatedly argued that the entire campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville should be exempted from any proposed campus carry legislation because, according to Senator Lucio, the university shares facilities with Santa Gertrudis Academy High School. But while Senator Lucio’s argument conjures up images of high school and college students passing each other in common restrooms and sitting across from each other in a common cafeteria, no such common areas exist.
W. Scott Lewis, Texas legislative director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, commented, “I’m not sure if Senator Lucio honestly doesn’t understand the relationship between the university and the high school or if he’s simply trying to pass a ‘not in my backyard’ amendment, but it’s clear that his statements don’t reflect reality.”
Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), author of the “campus carry” legislation at issue, attempted to address Senator Lucio’s concerns by amending the bill to clarify that concealed carry would still be prohibited on the premises of any primary or secondary school located on a college campus. But Senator Lucio wasn’t satisfied, claiming, “The reason, Senator Wentworth, your amendment is not going to work in my district is because the high school campus in Kingsville is not confined to a single building. They share facilities with the university. It is impossible to enforce your amendment, so we need to exempt the university.”
Something about Senator Lucio’s argument didn’t sit right with campus carry advocate Michael Cargill, who noted, “The idea that parents of 14- and 15-year-old girls wouldn’t object to their daughters sharing lunchrooms and athletic facilities with 20-year-old men struck me as highly improbable.” Mr. Cargill decided to visit the campus and see for himself.
At Santa Gretrudis Academy High School, Mr. Cargill spoke with Superintendent Mary E. Springs, Athletic Coordinator Hector Gonzales, and a school resource officer from the Kingsville Police Department who asked not to be named.
Although Senator Lucio’s office told Mr. Cargill that the high school shares a cafeteria and athletic facility with the university, Mr. Cargill quickly learned that the high school students actually use the cafeteria and gymnasium at Santa Gertrudis’ nearby K-8 school.
He also learned that the high school, which has fewer than 200 students, is housed on one floor of a two-story building shared with the university. The floor used by the high school has its own secured entrance and is not accessible from the floor used by the college. According to the school resource officer, the entire building (both floors) is considered a high school for the purpose of enforcing federal gun free/drug free school zone laws.
There are only two instances when the high school utilizes TAMUK facilities: It hosts interscholastic sporting events at TAMUK’s “old gym,” and students sometimes visit the university library to conduct research for school projects.
Because state law would still prohibit carrying a concealed handgun at a high school sporting event, the high school’s use of the “old gym” would not create a conflict. And because all public libraries and most museums in the state of Texas allow licensed concealed carry on the premises, the university library would present no greater risk than the multitude of other places students might be required to visit when researching school projects.
In light of the fact that only one campus building is regularly utilized by the high school, there is no reason that concealed carry should be prohibited on the rest of the TAMUK campus. Despite Senator Lucio’s claims to the contrary, allowing concealed carry at TAMUK would not mandate allowing concealed carry in the high school itself, something he erroneously suggests would conflict with federal law.
While attempting to amend Senator Wentworth’s campus carry legislation, to exempt any college that houses a primary or secondary school, Senator Lucio argued, “This amendment is necessary to uphold the—quote—Gun-Free School Zones Act—unquote.” But in reality, the federal “Gun-Free School Zones Act” includes an exemption for holders of state-issued concealed handgun licenses. The State of Texas already utilizes that exemption by allowing CHL holders to carry concealed handguns in the parking lots, parking garages, and outside walkways of primary and secondary schools—all locations covered by the act.
Like Senators Ellis and Gallegos, Senator Lucio needs to perform his own due diligence before repeating as fact the arguments fed to him by college administrators seeking to carry out their own political agendas.
W. Scott Lewis summed up the underlying folly of Senator Lucio’s arguments: “Opponents of campus carry want to create fear and paranoia about the prospect of allowing trained, licensed adults to carry concealed handguns in close proximity to teenagers. Yet, few parents have any reservations about dropping off their kids at a movie theater, a shopping mall, or a church—all locations where licensed concealed carry is typically allowed.”