University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa says students, faculty and administrators worry proposals to allow concealed handguns on Texas college campuses will make schools more dangerous.
Cigarroa expressed his concerns to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state lawmakers in a letter dated Thursday. (Read the letter here) The Legislature is considering bills that would allow anyone with a concealed handgun license, which would include some students, faculty and staff, to carry their weapons into campus buildings.
"I would be remiss in my duties as chancellor of the state's largest university system, if I did not convey my concerns regarding this issue," Cigarroa wrote.
The UT system has nine university campuses and several more health science and medical school facilities.
Campus mental health professionals have a "great concern" that adding guns to the emotional and psychological pressures young people face in academics and separation from family could lead to an increase in accidental shootings and suicides, Cigarroa said.
Campus laboratories and hospitals that use and store chemicals and gases that are kept under pressure could be especially dangerous if someone fired a weapon, Cigarroa's letter said.
Supporters say the law simply protects the rights of gun owners and would be a critical self-defense measure to help avoid shootings on the scale of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, when a shooter killed 32 people.
In his letter, Cigarroa said campus law enforcement agencies worry that if they needed to respond to a similar incident in Texas, it would be difficult for officers to determine between the shooter and someone who drew a gun to defend themselves.
Texas enacted its concealed handgun law in 1995, allowing people 21 or older to carry weapons if they pass a training course and a background check. The state had 461,724 license holders as of Dec. 31.
Businesses, schools and churches can set rules banning guns on their on their premises. On college campuses, guns are prohibited in buildings, dorms and certain grounds around them.
Texas has become a prime battleground for a movement to prevent schools from banning concealed weapons. The Senate passed a bill in 2009 and more than half the members of the House have signed on to a similar bill this year.
Perry, who has a concealed handgun license, has said he's in favor of the idea.