State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury (File)
WACO (February 15, 2013)—An open letter signed by Baylor faculty and staff members opposing a bill that would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry firearms on Texas college and university campuses will be delivered Monday to state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, the author of the measure.
As of Friday, the letter had 119 signatures.
“In all my years of working with faculty, I have never seen an issue that has engendered such a passionate consensus as the opposition to guns on campuses and firearms in our classrooms,” said Dr. Lynn Tatum, senior lecturer at Baylor and past-president of the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors
“Our classrooms should be sanctuaries for the free exchange of ideas and fervent debates over ideals. Guns have no place in our academic halls,” he said.
The bill, which Birdwell filed in January, would allow students, faculty and staff members with concealed handgun licenses to carry firearms on campus for personal protection.
The bill would bar colleges or universities from circumventing the act by imposing bans or penalties on students or employees who are carrying firearms legally, Birdwell said.
The legislation ensures that private schools may establish rules regarding concealed handgun license holders on campus, Birdwell said.
A section of the bill says private or independent institutions may establish rules prohibiting CHL holders from carrying handguns on campus premises owned or leased and operated by the institution.
The letter to be delivered Monday to Birdwell’s Waco office acknowledges the private school exemption, but urges the senator “not to gamble with the lives of our students, staff, and faculty at Baylor University and other Texas colleges with this ill-conceived experiment.”
“Instead, we ask you to support universal background checks as a way to keep our campuses safer,” the letter says.
“Allowing students to carry deadly weapons into our classrooms will potentially change the way we lecture and facilitate discussions,” the letter says.
“It may very well impede the free flow of ideas and exchanges which are essential in the academic enterprise; it may introduce an element into this environment that causes anxiety, tension, concern, and fear.”
In January Birdwell said he filed the bill with the full backing of the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association.
"I'm proud to be filing this bill with the support of so many of my colleagues, as well as the full backing of the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association," Birdwell said in January.
“This is a piece of legislation I have consistently heard about from the citizens I was elected to serve, and I look forward to seeing it enacted."
A similar measure was defeated in 2011 in the Texas House.