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New Concealed Carry Law Coincides With Grim Anniversary Of Austin Massacre

ELISE HU, HOST:

Tomorrow marks 50 years since a national tragedy played out on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This is a KLRN News bulletin. A sniper with a high-powered rifle has taken up a position on the observation deck of the tower on the campus of the University of Texas. He is firing at positions within his range.

HU: The sniper was a former Marine and expert marksman named Charles Whitman. By the time police shot and killed him, 14 people were dead and more than 30 others wounded. As the UT-Austin campus marks that grim anniversary tomorrow, a new gun law will take effect in Texas. For the first time, licensed gun owners will be allowed to carry loaded, concealed handguns on all Texas public university campuses. Dr. David Daniel is one of the officials charged with implementing the new law. He is deputy chancellor of the University of Texas System, and he joins me now.

Dr. Daniel, welcome.

DAVID DANIEL: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

HU: Well, let me just ask, how do you feel about this law going into effect on this anniversary?

DANIEL: Well, it's unfortunate that the anniversary of that tragic shooting happens to coincide with the implementation of the concealed carry law. As chance would have it, the 50-year anniversary is the date August 1, 2016, and that happens to be the date that the concealed carry law goes into effect for public university campuses in Texas.

HU: What exactly are the provisions of the new law? Kind of spell that out for us.

DANIEL: The law extends the right for concealed handgun license-holders, who already have the ability to carry their handgun generally in Texas, to carry those concealed handguns onto college campuses. The unique aspect of the Texas law is that the law empowers university presidents to establish reasonable rules for the carrying of concealed handguns, taking into account the unique characteristics of each campus. But presidents may not establish rules that prohibit, or generally appear to prohibit, the carrying of concealed handguns.

HU: So what would be an example of maybe a restriction on the UT campus that's different on the Texas A&M campus at College Station?

DANIEL: So in some of our campuses, concealed carry is not allowed in dormitories, whereas in other campuses, it is allowed. Probably the most significant difference is a provision established at the University of Texas - Austin that allows occupants of individual offices to not allow concealed carry within their office. I expect some other campuses in the University of Texas System to adapt that rule as well, but I expect that others will not. So we do see differences at different campuses.

HU: Are you preparing any additional levels of security or any trainings, drills as a result of preparing for this law?

DANIEL: We've put some additional training in place for our police officers to deal with weapons. We have talked about putting additional security cameras in place at key locations. So the implementation of the law has raised anxiety. It has raised concerns, and we're trying to use it as an opportunity to increase safety and security on campus in general.

HU: On the topic of all this debate and dialogue, some professors are attempting to reverse this law with a lawsuit. And in it, they're noting the timing of it going into effect on a mass shooting anniversary. So Dr. Daniel, I have to ask - will this law make campuses safer?

DANIEL: (Laughter) Well, we don't have an opinion one way or the other about whether the law will make a campus safer or not. Chancellor McRaven was very clear - and I agree with him - in that our preference would not be to allow concealed carry on campus. However, we're very respectful of our legislative process. Our elected leaders made their decision. The governor signed it into law. We at the university are committed to following the law, making our campuses just as safe as they possibly can be and do so in a way that does not alter the learning environment at our campuses.

HU: Dr. David Daniel is deputy chancellor of the University of Texas System. Dr. Daniel, thanks so much.

DANIEL: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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