by BRANDI ORTIZ//News Editor
Concealed firearms are now legal to carry on South Plains College campuses.
Any student or faculty member who has a licensed to carry (LTC) or a concealed handgun license (CHL) is now able to carry handguns on campus.
Senate Bill 11, also known as “campus carry,” went into effect for community colleges on Aug. 1, and allows any individual who has a LTC or CHL to carry a concealed handgun on a college campus. To be eligible to carry a handgun, a person must be a license holder, and the handgun must remain concealed at all times.
According to Chief Nickolis Castillo, director of Campus Police at South Plains College, “before this law you could not bring a firearm on campus. It was a federal offense. Now as long as you have the license, you do so if it is concealed.”
The Campus Carry bill does not specifically state what is considered “concealed.” But as long as the firearm is “on or about” the person and the license holder has full control over the weapon, it is considered concealed.
If a student is living on campus, he or she will still be able to carry a firearm. When a firearm is not carried on or around the person, it must be locked inside a personal vehicle or locked inside a gun safe. Gun safes must be able to contain all firearms and equipment. The exterior must be made of a minimum of 16-gauge steel, and have a mechanical or biometric lock. A key lock will not be allowed.
Though the bill allows concealed carry, an institution can create further rules and regulations that restrict license holders from carrying on certain areas of the campus.
“On the Levelland campus, [the campus carry committee] has decided to permanently ban only one facility, the Natatorium,” says Chief Castillo.
South Plains College has a list of other locations and events that will be “Exclusion Areas” online at the SPC website. Some of those include UIL activities and meetings of the Board of Regents.
Campus carry allows handguns, according to Chief Castillo, which are “any gun that is designed by its manufacturer to be fired with one hand.” The bill does not allow rifles or shotguns to be carried on college campuses.
Any student or faculty member who may feel anxious about others carrying firearms on campus should have confidence that any LTC or CHL holder is statistically less likely to use a gun to promote violence, according to Chief Castillo.
“Nationwide, we have a very, very low statistic on violent incidences involving somebody that is a license holder,” says Chief Castillo. “In fact, anybody that you could see a problem from, is from somebody that does not have a license and they can’t legally carry.”
If a student or faculty member sees a handgun on campus, they may contact the SPC Police Department and they will conduct an investigation.
Students who have a license to carry a handgun are not required by law to disclose to the college or any other people. If a student is carrying and somebody sees it, he or she is not required to tell the person if they have a license. The only person a CHL or LTC holder is required to disclose to is a law enforcement official.
If a student or faculty member would like to carry a handgun on campus, he or she must obtain a LTC. To get an LTC, a person must be 21 years of age or older and submit an online application at dps.texas.gov or go to the local Department of Public Safety office to get an application. Applicants must also complete four to six hours of classroom training, pass a written examination and pass a proficiency demonstration.
Chief Castillo said he believes that there are benefits to Senate Bill 11.
“There are many pros and cons,” he said. “The biggest benefit that I see is the knowledge that Texas colleges are now concealed carry campuses leaves me to believe that a violent intruder is less likely to act in one of those schools. I think it brings a lot of people some peace of mind that they are able to take their survival into their own hands.”