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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The new chancellor of the University of Texas System told Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republicans on Thursday that concealed handguns at colleges will make campus less safe.
William McRaven, the former Navy admiral who directed the special forces operation to kill Osama bin Laden, took over the lead of the University of Texas System this month. As his predecessor, Francisco Cigarroa, did in previous years, McRaven wrote a letter to state leaders outlining campus opposition to allowing concealed weapons in campus building and classrooms.
The "campus carry" measure backed by gun rights groups has been among the hottest issues in previous legislative sessions, and opposition from higher education officials has been a key reason for its defeat.
But the issue also has new momentum, particularly in the Senate, where a bill filed this week already had 19 co-sponsors, the precise number needed to ensure its passage in that chamber.
"I am very pleased that the Senate is poised to cast this historic vote," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said this week.
Gun rights groups call campus-carry a self-defense measure in case of a campus shooter.
But McRaven's letter to Abbott, Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus said students, parents, faculty and campus police fear that "concealed handguns on campus would contribute to a less-safe environment, not a safer one."
Texas law requires concealed handgun license holders to be at least 21 and pass a short class and shooting range test.
Even with those restrictions, McRaven wrote, mental health professionals worry that the mixture of guns and the emotional and psychological stresses on students — many of whom are away from home for the first time — could lead to more suicides and accidental shootings.
His letter also noted that six system campuses have health and clinical operations, and pointed to a recent shooting of a doctor at a Boston hospital.
"Strong emotions sometimes flare at times of stress when a person or loved one is ill," McRaven wrote.
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