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Texas allows guns at universities

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CHICAGO: Texas became the eighth US state to allow guns on campuses Monday — a controversial decision that comes on the 50th anniversary of a deadly sniper rampage at a university.

The law, which was passed last year, requires public universities in Texas to permit concealed weapons in campus buildings, although schools can impose limits on where guns are allowed.

At the University of Texas at Austin, where a mass shooting in 1966 claimed 14 lives, the institution’s president Gregory Fenves said the emotionally charged issue would likely be little noticed on campus.

“We have a very safe campus,” Fenves said, “And I think that will continue.”

Texas joins seven other states which also allow concealed guns on university campuses, including Oregon, Colorado, and Wisconsin. Eighteen states specifically ban the practice.

Critics of the law include three UT Austin professors who have sued, claiming their free speech rights would be violated, because students with guns would create a fearful atmosphere and stifle the open expression of ideas.

In an opinion piece published last week in The Dallas Morning News, Seema Yasmin, who teaches at a public university in Dallas, echoed that theme.

“I’m not scared of guns. I’m scared of this combination: term exam stress, undiagnosed mental illness and the ability to carry guns in university buildings,” Yasmin wrote.

Proponents argue that allowing concealed weapons on campuses makes students and teachers safer, because any potential shooting attacks can be halted more quickly by armed citizens.

It is unclear what the impact of the Texas law will be.

For one, concealed guns have been allowed on Texas university campuses since 1995. The new law now allows them inside buildings as well.

A person has to be 21 or older to be licensed to carry a gun in the state. That limits the number of college students who would qualify.

And despite fears, university officials say there is little evidence of increased violence.

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