Majority of East Texas legislators are for guns on campus

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The vast majority of East Texas legislators are supporting legislation that would allow concealed weapons license holders to carry guns on college campuses. The idea is to provide better protection against shooters on campuses and protect laws that allow people to bear arms.

Democratic State Representative Jim McReynolds of Lufkin is one of several joint authors. Republican State Representative Wayne Christian of Center is one of 67 co-authors. "I being a life time member of the NRA and have a permit to carry myself, I believe that's under threat right now from a national level," said Christian.  "I do not think it's time for us to back away."   Christian said he takes into consideration that in his findings, almost every case where there was a campus shooting, "if some teacher or class member had a gun they could have stopped the idiots that came in and killed someone."

Obviously, not everyone agrees with the proposed legislation. Right now the senate is split on a similar bill. Republican Senator Robert Nichols of Jacksonville opposses a similar measure in the Senate. He prefers giving universities the option to decide whether or not to allow guns on campus.   He's basing his decision on what he's hearing from universities in his district, including Stephen F. Austin State University.

SFA police, hired and trained to protect more than 12,000 students and faculty have a chief adamantly against guns on campus, license or no license to carry a concealed weapon. "I'm stressing that for police officers to carry a weapon they need to go through 640 hours, not 16," said Marc Cossich, sfa police chief. He doesn't think the 16 hours of instruction required to acquire a license are enough to keep campuses safe.

Here's another concern. If everyone is carrying guns how do you tell the good guy from the bad guy. "If we had an incident on campus and people had their weapons ready to go, police show up, it could be a real frenzy," said Brian Sullivan, Student Government Association president. Student government leaders are only expressing their personal opinions. They know not everyone on campus is in agreement.

"You got too many shooters, crazies, that don't have permits, they just walk in with guns and start shooting," expressed Travis Allen, a SFA student.  "I mean, if you have people with permits and you have professions that have guns on them carrying around on campus for protection, yeah, I'd feel a lot safer."

People with a license to carry a gun can bring the firearm on a college campus, but must leave it in the automobile glove box. As far as other kinds of guns, like hunting guns, there's a place on campus for those too. It's inside the SFA Police Department, in a storage locker.

Then there's the idea of letting a select few carry guns. "If there's a panel that decided certain administrators can carry a gun, I think it would be a great idea," said Daniel Lawrence, another SFA student.   After giving it some thought, student John Lumbley said, "Instructors or maybe older students, may be a situation where you have to take a senior level class."

Some faculty don't want the liability. "I was a police officer for 25 years," said George Franks, a criminal justice instructor and retired state police officer.  "I wouldn't hesitate to go back into that role, but I simply don't think that it's my responsibility here. I'm here as a teacher, not a as a police officer."

Opponents to guns on campus say more effort should be spent on strict behavioral intervention programs that can identify troubled individuals before they cause danger to others. SFA currently has a program in place.