Fear, Loathing, and Hysterical Panic at San Antonio College

06Aug17

On Tuesday, August 1st, the Texas “campus carry” law went into effect at community colleges, allowing students with Texas License to Carry (LTC) permits to carry concealed pistols in public community college campus buildings. It had already gone into effect at four-year colleges last year. Permit holders can’t openly carry pistols in campus buildings, nor can they carry long guns. And as it turns out, licensed carriers have been able to carry on public campuses (but not into buildings) for over twenty years, since the Texas Concealed Handgun License law went into effect in 1995. Although opponents of the CHL law predicted “shootouts at high noon” and had other apocalyptic visions, the opposite happened; crime actually decreased, and permit holders have proven to be extremely law-abiding. In 2016, Texas CHL holders accounted for only 148 criminal convictions out of 42,797 criminal convictions statewide, meaning Texas CHL holders made up only .3458% of Texas criminal offenders that year.

Several other states already have campus carry laws, and thus far those states don’t seem to be having an issue. After the original Texas CHL law went into effect in 1995, then-Harris County (Houston) District Attorney John Holmes, who had opposed the law, wrote in a letter to a Texas senator, “As you know, I was very outspoken in my opposition to the passage of the Concealed Handgun Act. I did not feel that such legislation was in the public interest and presented a clear and present danger to law abiding citizens by placing more handguns on our streets. Boy was I wrong. Our experience in Harris County, and indeed state-wide, has proven my initial fears absolutely groundless.”

A police chief in Utah, which has had campus carry since 2004, was asked about campus carry for a 2014 article:

“Officials at several universities, including the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Dixie State College and Utah State University told IdahoReporter.com that though carrying guns on campus has been legal for nearly a decade, they haven’t seen evidence that their schools are less safe.

‘We haven’t had much problem with it,’ said Steven Mecham, head of the Utah State University Department of Public Safety. ‘It’s just not been an issue.’

Reached via email, University of Utah spokeswoman Maria O’Mara told IdahoReporter.com, ‘We have had no incidents on campus regarding this law.’

Mecham said his agency only receives calls when a carrier’s shirt pulls up and other students or faculty see the weapon and call the authorities. When that happens, the police official said, officers will check the carrier’s permit to ensure the holder is carrying legally.

With guns close at hand, though, has Utah State University, the state’s second-largest school with about 20,000 students, experienced college kids threatening faculty or other learners with weapons?

‘We haven’t had any of that,’ Mecham said.”

Another Utah campus police chief said his school had a few reports of “students threatening or intimating gun violence,” but no shootings or accidental discharges.

Despite the widespread lack of doomsdays that have followed passage of concealed carry laws we still get irrational worry, generally expressed by the exact people we expect it from. For example, the New York Times published an op-ed written by a University of Texas at Austin professor who wrote,

“Allowing guns in classrooms (against the will of the overwhelming majority of professors, staff and students) will not only increase risk but, as has been argued elsewhere, will stifle classroom debates – an essential component of learning… Do I dread the potential presence of young vigilantes – because, let’s not be euphemistic about it, ‘vigilante’ is the right word for the people (mostly men) who will carry concealed guns – in my classroom? Certainly.”

But on Tuesday, when the Texas campus carry law went into effect, the New York Times was one-upped by a San Antonio College geology professor who – no joke – wore military body armor and a helmet to class.

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The professor, Charles K. Smith, told a local journalist, “It definitely makes me feel uneasy that there are more firearms on campus than there really should be. (Dressing this way) was just a statement on how I felt.”

So let’s address a few points:

  • Professor Smith has every right to express his stupid, irrational, near-panicked opinion. There’s no indication he’s a bad professor or treats students unfairly, and so no reason to advocate for firing or punishing him in any other way.
  • He doesn’t really believe he’s in danger. If he thought he truly needed a helmet and body armor, he wouldn’t go to work. Additionally, if he thought he was in real danger he’d wear that gear every day. As far as we know, he only wore it one day to make a statement. So his own actions show he doesn’t believe he really needs it.
  • He’s not in any more danger since campus carry became legal. As Utah and Colorado show, campus carry doesn’t equal “students murdering each other over classroom arguments.”
  • Even in Texas, campus carry hasn’t led to more violence. Four-year colleges enacted campus carry a year ago, with no issues. An officer I’m acquainted with who works at a very large and well-known Texas university said, “As a university police officer for a huge university, I’ll point out that we have had no problems since campus carry went into effect last year. The only incident I know of was a reserve police officer (who would be allowed to carry anyway) open carrying in a way that his badge was not readily visible.”

Opponents of campus carry frequently cite notorious college shootings as evidence campus carry should remain illegal. Let’s look at a few of those:

  • The Virginia Tech shooting, committed by Seung-Hui Cho in 2007, resulted in the deaths of 32 innocent people. Yes, it was a horrible massacre, and no, it had nothing to do with campus carry. Cho was illegally carrying on campus, with the specific intent to commit a massacre. The campus carry ban in effect at that time only prevented Cho’s victims from effectively defending themselves.
  • In 2015 Chris Harper-Mercer killed nine people at Umpqua College in Oregon. He was not legally carrying, and like Cho he went to campus specifically to commit a massacre. Umpqua College at that time banned guns on campus; however, that ban stopped neither Harper-Mercer from carrying nor Air Force veteran John Parker, who was carrying with a permit that day. Harper-Mercer, carrying illegally, carried out a mass murder, while Parker, carrying with a permit but in violation of college policy, stood ready to defend his classroom and hurt nobody.
  • In 2014 Elliot Rodger, a complete loser racist who had never kissed a girl, stabbed three men to death in his apartment before driving around near the University of California Santa Barbara shooting and hitting people with his car. He killed six total before committing suicide. He wasn’t carrying in campus with a permit, and his attack had nothing to do with campus carry.
  • Former Marine Charles Whitman murdered fourteen people (sixteen counting an unborn child and a victim who died from his wounds 35 years later) on the University of Texas Austin campus in 1966. Whitman had driven onto campus with a footlocker holding a shotgun, three rifles and three pistols, then killed several people while hauling his weapons to the top of the UT tower before sniping several more. This was the first American campus massacre, and the only one that might fit into the anti-campus carry narrative. I haven’t found anything about campus carry laws in Texas in 1966, but most states seem to have banned guns on campus after the UT massacre. I suspect Whitman wasn’t breaking any laws by possessing a shotgun or rifles on campus, although he probably was by carrying pistols. Whether he was legally carrying any weapons or not, a) Whitman didn’t commit a massacre because he got upset in class, he committed the massacre because that was his entire plan; and b) today’s campus carry laws don’t allow students to carry rifles and shotguns, which were the only weapons Whitman used to kill people on campus.

I haven’t been able to find any reports of legally-armed college students committing campus murders, or legally-armed students getting angry at classroom disagreements and shooting fellow students or professors. As far as I can tell, campus gun violence has all been from criminals and murderers illegally carrying, usually despite bans ordering them not to.

So why did Professor Charles Smith wear body armor to class?

He did it to draw attention to a nonexistent problem. He knows some students were already illegally carrying guns – he said so himself – yet didn’t wear body armor in response to that threat. Instead, he wore body armor because he doesn’t trust students who are at least 21 and have been background checked and attended training. He doesn’t trust them despite the fact that they haven’t murdered anyone in the last year that Texas has permitted concealed carry on four-year campuses, and haven’t murdered anyone in the decade they’ve been carrying on Utah college campuses.

Hysterical academics have been shrieking about concealed carry for decades. I remember the dire warnings of streets drenched with blood before Texas passed its original concealed carry law in 1995. Concealed carry laws haven’t taken us back to the Old West, and campus carry laws haven’t turned classroom debates into bloodbaths. Some have argued that campus carry makes people afraid to speak their opinion because students might be armed, but that’s just stupid; concealed means concealed so nobody would even know a student is armed, students haven’t been killing other students over classroom discussions in the decade campus carry has been legal in other states, nearly all the campus violence nationwide has been against conservatives who speak their minds rather than committed by students exercising their 2A rights, and nobody’s rights should be restricted because some people irrationally believe they’re in danger.

So please, Professor Smith, take your body armor back to army surplus. You’re not in any more danger from legally-armed students, and statistically in less danger from legally-armed students than from the illegally-armed students you already knew were on campus. Quit shrieking for attention, just show up to class and do your job. You’ll be fine.

P.S. If anyone knows of a campus murder or attempted murder committed by a legal concealed carrier, please send me the info.

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Chris Hernandez (pictured above) is a 23 year police officer, former Marine and retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

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10 Responses to “Fear, Loathing, and Hysterical Panic at San Antonio College”

  1. 1 David Hernandez

    Great reading. There will always be someone crying Wolf.

  2. There you go talking common sense and facts again, Chris. You’re going to get a reputation if you keep this up…

    But I do take issue in one small way:
    •Professor Smith has every right to express his stupid, irrational, near-panicked opinion. There’s no indication he’s a bad professor…

    That’s true only if one grants the premise that we want college professors to be allowed to be stupid, irrational, panic-mongers.

    Personally, I think that goes to the heart of his qualifications to be a college professor, and as he’s a Texas state employee, I think the citizens of the Lone Star State have every right to hound him out of his job on the grounds that he’s not packing the requisite mental gear to do what they’re paying for. And I hope they succeed, on the grounds that blithering idiots not be subsidized, nor placed in positions of academic responsibility. He looks like he’s ripe for enforced retirement anyways, so perhaps his senility is also worthy offurther exploration.

    Getting rid of faculty lunatics could start a trend…

    • I’m ambivalent about him. As long as he can teach geography with causing problems for students I’m pretty much neutral. Once he crosses the line past ineffective theatrics, I’d be fine with taking action against him.

      Ideally, it would be nice if we didn’t have lunatics teaching college classes. However, that’s kind of like the joke about the guy struggling for an hour to pick a five pound booger, and then his head collapsed. If we got rid of all lunatic professors, colleges would implode for lack of faculty.

  3. 4 Patrick Aherne

    The Left gets upset over CCW because they are projecting what THEY would do if they carried a pistol. They know they are not sane enough to be trusted with a weapon and believe that others would react in a similar matter. Duty, restraint, etc. are not concepts with which they are familiar.

  4. 5 Bill Statler

    Good article. You do have an arithmetic error, though. 148/42797 = 0.003458 = 0.3458%

  5. 8 Mike_C

    This is admittedly trivial, but this Smith guy is no professor. He’s an adjunct instructor. While everyone’s been referring to Smith as a professor — so I’m not picking on you personally for it — he’s far from one; he’s just some guy they allow to teach part time. It ain’t exactly like calling a full-bird private a colonel, but it’s that sort of error.

    Also, no PhD, but some weird ass “MAG” degree.

  6. 9 Av willis

    I realize I’m late to the party, but it’s worth noting that with regards to the Whitman shooting, citizens got their weapons out of their trucks and fought back. How effective they were largely depends on who you ask, but it certainly pokes a hole in the progressive scenario of police being unable to distinguish between defender and aggressor.


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