ACC asks its community for input on campus carry

FILE - Austin Community College (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Austin Community College (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While Texas’ campus carry law was implemented Aug. 1, 2016, for public universities across the state, the law doesn’t go into effect until Aug. 1, 2017, for community colleges. The law permits licensed handgun owners to carry concealed weapons on most locations on campus including classrooms. Austin Community College and community colleges around the state are now tailoring their policies to determine the “exclusionary zones” where guns will be banned on campus.

ACC has already hosted one community forum at their Round Rock campus where attendees asked campus leaders about securing classrooms in the event of a shooter and preventing a “hero vigilante” effect on gun owners.

There are two more forums being held to gather feedback on campus carry at ACC. The next will be held at the ACC Riverside Campus Tuesday, April 18, in Building G from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Another forum will be held on April 28 at the Highland Campus Social Staircase from 1 to 2:30 p.m. At the Highland Campus forum, the college’s draft recommendations will be presented.

ACC welcomes input from students, faculty, staff and community members. You can take a campus carry survey and share your thoughts at http://www.austincc.edu/campus-carry.

Chris Cervini, the chair of the ACC campus carry task force said that the first forum at Round Rock already led to “very interesting conversation.”

“It was a full room, pretty large classroom  we had good feedback on  questions related to where the college would have exclusion zones, what the various rules for all the different campuses will be,” Cervini said.  He explained that because ACC has 11 (and soon to be 12) campuses, the district has to address the unique challenges at each campus with the campus carry law.

“ACC needs a policy and frankly all institutions of higher education need a policy for campus carry, because we are large and diverse institutions and we have different facilities that have different needs,” Cervini said. “For instance, any places where they have children would be exclusion zones, and there are a number of places on our campuses where there is child care or child labs, so having a specific policy for each institution is a good idea.”

The ACC president is the person who will ultimately approve all of the gun-free zones on campus.  As part of Texas’ Senate Bill 11 which was passed in 2015, all college campuses have to develop a policy and procedure regarding campus carry, Cervini explained.

He added that there still is some confusion over what campus carry entails.

“The biggest question we’ve received has been, ‘What is the difference between campus carry and open carry?’ This law that we’re implementing here at ACC and community colleges around the state is campus carry which is for licensed carry holders to carry concealed weapons if they so choose. Open carry is not part of the law and will not be allowed in Texas institutions,” Cervini clarified.

He added that if a student or faculty member sees a gun on an ACC campus, the policy will be to alert the police and have the police ask the person with the gun to display their license to carry.  Cervini said that having the extra year to implement campus carry has been valuable for ACC because it allowed the district to consult with four year universities who already have the law in effect.

ACC has already surveyed over 5,000 of it’s campus community members, the survey results found that 56 percent of the respondents were opposed to campus carry and 44 percent were in support or neutral on the issue.

One of the students who is concerned about the law is Omar Belkady, who is studying computer engineering.  Belkady is an international student, he  doesn’t like the idea of sitting in class with other students who may have guns, but he understands that the law is going into effect regardless.

“I am from a different country, I cannot judge on people’s rights and I wouldn’t want to,” he explained. “In my country there isn’t a gun issue because guns are totally banned, you cannot carry or bring in a gun because if you bring in a gun you get arrested.”

Belkady hopes that when campus carry goes into effect at ACC that campus police and security efforts increase as well.

“As long as the school is safe that’s the most important for me, because I come here, I work hard, I don’t want to worry if the school is safe or not safe or anything I just want to come here and study,” he said.

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