Anti-campus carry protesters rally at UT-Austin

UT Gun Free rally at West Mall (Phil Prazan/KXAN News)
UT Gun Free rally at West Mall (Phil Prazan/KXAN News)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The group Gun Free UT took to the university’s West Mall on Tuesday afternoon to spread the message that guns and learning do not mix. The group formed after Texas lawmakers passed “campus carry” — a law that would allow CHL holders to carry their handguns into college buildings. CHL holders can already take firearms on campus in their cars, certain sidewalks and public spaces.

Joan Neuberger recruits Ryan Allo to hold up a sign and blast it out on social media.

‘The president will have to recognize what the students feel because that’s what this campus is about – the students,” said Ryan Allo, a Junior Neuro-Science Major.

Neuberger has been recruiting more than students. At a rally Tuesday the group Gun Free UT announced they’ve retained the National Lawyer’s Guild.

“We’re willing to take it to court,” said Neuberger.

She says they have a case based on the 1st amendment freedom of expression – and guns would infringe on that right.

‘We need the classroom to be a protected place for freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” said Neuberger.

The group says they have 1,000 faculty members signed on.

But Allison Peregory working the Young Conservatives of Texas table thinks otherwise. They’ve set up just a few feet from the more than a hundred protesters. She doesn’t buy the argument that guns limit freedom of speech.

A late night compromise back in May passed “campus carry” but allowed university leaders to create “reasonable” restrictions and rules when implementing the law. The 50th anniversary of the UT Austin Charles Whitman shooting, Aug. 1, 2016, is when the law kicks in.

“Which is just absurd. I’m a conservative student on a liberal campus and I’ll sit in on discussions in class when we’re talking about controversial subjects,” said Peregory.

All sides will make their case to President Fenves by December- who has the ability to keep guns out of classrooms and offices. But by early Spring, the UT-System regents – appointed by Governors Perry and Abbott – could change where CHL holders can carry with a two thirds vote.

Throughout the summer and fall UT Austin has held public forums and gathered input for President Greg Fenves to make the guidelines. The plan would then have to be approved by the University of Texas Regents and then finally by the Legislature. Both the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House have charged lawmakers to watch and study the implementation of campus carry during the interim session.

Earlier this fall, a longtime UT economics professor, Daniel Hammermesh, PH.D, turned in his resignation, citing the campus carry law. He has been the only faculty member to publicly say the law caused his resignation.

The University of Texas system and all public colleges in the state are collecting feedback on the new gun policy. 3,261 people have responded via the online survey.  UT officials are still encouraging people to fill it out.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and all Central Texans can take part.  They say they are getting a wide range of opinions and suggestions that will help mold UT’s proposed plan to the Board of Regents.

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