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Campus carry in Texas: At what cost?

The predictions last year were ominous.

Allowing concealed handguns on Texas college campuses could create conflict and cost around $50 million over the next few years.

But now, more than a month since campus carry became law, the only real cost — just a fraction of the original projections — has been to put up signs on college campuses statewide letting people know where licensed Texans may not carry concealed guns.

“This has been much ado about nothing,” said state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball, who authored campus carry. “When I laid the bill out, one of my arguments was that there’s no justification that this could cost that much money.”

Officials say there haven’t been any problems with campus carry, which went into effect Aug. 1, although there was one incident recently where a gun accidentally discharged in a Tarleton State University dorm. There were no injuries.

As for the overall cost, statewide totals aren’t available.

But a Star-Telegram survey of colleges in Tarrant County shows that officials spent less than $20,000 putting the new law in place locally.

“With campus carry costs, it was a policy debate,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Each side gave the furthest edge number that would support their position.

Campus carry went into effect in Texas on Aug. 1. Open carry is not allowed on any Texas college campus.

“Those who had reservations about campus carry in general estimated high on the cost,” he said. “It was an attempt to get the Legislature to think seriously about this and back off or give campuses more flexibility.”

Signs, signs

State lawmakers last year approved the controversial proposal of letting concealed handguns be carried on some college campuses.

Private colleges such as Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University were allowed to opt out of the law, which they did.

Public universities such as the University of Texas at Arlington were allowed to designate gun-free zones on part but not all of the campus, which they did.

Early projections pegged the cost of campus carry statewide — for everything from gun storage to hiring additional officers and training them — at around $50 million over the next several years. About $39 million, over six years, was projected for the University of Texas system alone.

Officials now say the initial estimate included providing gun storage at campuses across the state, “something the statewide committee decided as a group against,” said Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokeswoman for the UT System.

Campus Carry expands in Texas, going into effect at community colleges, on Aug. 1, 2017.

UT officials say they haven’t tallied total expenses at all the campuses, “but it’s our understanding that the direct costs have been minimal,” she said. “Most of the expense has been signage.”

Officials at many colleges say their cost estimates don’t include the time or manpower spent reviewing this new law and planning how to best implement it.

The only people legally allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus are those who have a License To Carry, meaning they are at least 21 and have met requirements, including training and proficiency tests.

Campus carry expands to Texas community colleges on Aug. 1, 2017. Open carry is not allowed on any Texas college campus.

Price tag

Here’s a look at local costs linked to the new law:

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: The private seminary opted out of the Campus Carry law, but certain individuals are allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus after undergoing a review process and receiving written approval. No campus carry signs have been posted, generating no cost, said Charles Patrick, a seminary spokesman. Patrick said there have been no incidents regarding Licenses to Carry.

Tarleton State University-Fort Worth: Officials say there have been no costs for the Fort Worth campus, although they spent around $8,000 for signs and rack cards at the Stephenville campus. In Fort Worth, the campus is on rented space, from a building on Camp Bowie Boulevard to laboratories and public health programs in the medical district. Guns are not allowed in the building rented from the Hickman Companies at 6777 Camp Bowie Blvd., and “Hickman Companies handles all signage for this facility,” said Cecilia Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth campus. Licensed Texans may tote concealed handguns where the college holds its Medical Laboratory Science and Public Health programs in the Fort Worth Medical District, 1501 Enderly Place, unless formal disciplinary or student conduct hearings are being held there. Jacobs said there have been “no incidents or problems” with the law.

Campus Carry

State lawmakers last year approved a measure letting concealed handguns be carried on some college campuses. Campus carry — which gives private universities the right to opt out of the law and public universities the ability to designate limited “gun-free” zones on their campuses — became law Aug. 1. Campus carry goes into effect at community colleges in Texas on Aug. 1, 2017. Open carry is not allowed on any Texas college campus. Here’s a look at what’s allowed at some of the larger college campuses in Tarrant County:

Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth. Officials say they’ve spent less than $1,000 on signs to indicate where campus carry is not allowed on campus. “We currently have signs posted in our law clinic making clear that concealed carry is prohibited there, and the remaining signs are temporary in nature and will be used, as appropriate, when activities at the law school fall into one of the statutory or TAMU rule exceptions to campus carry,” said Aric Short, vice dean for the law school. No additional staff has been hired, and “implementation, so far, has been smooth and uneventful,” Short said. “There were some anxieties associated with the new law, but from my perspective, there haven’t been any problems so far.”

TCU: Workers at the private university erected 64 signs stating that guns are not allowed on campus. Officials declined to say how much the signs cost. As for the new law, “we have not had any trouble with people challenging us on the policy or attempting to bring guns onto the premises,” said Holly Ellman, a spokeswoman for the school.

Texas Wesleyan: Ten signs for a total cost of $150 have been installed at the private college. Officials recently hired off-duty police officers to help with patrol, “however, we would have done this whether or not campus carry was in place,” said Chris Beckrich, director of security for Texas Wesleyan. He said there have been “no problems or incidents with people carrying on campus.”

University of North Texas Health Science Center: Officials put up a handful of signs, at a cost of around $100, letting people know where guns are not allowed. They also spent about $30 to print cards that campus officers hand out when people ask for information about the new law. “This squares with our original estimates prior to implementation, when we anticipated no significant financial implications,” said Jeff Carlton, a spokesman for the center. He did say the Safety Office plans to spend about $1,200 in the next six months “to conduct an active shooter exercise that incorporates concealed carry into the training.” And he said campus carry cost estimates don’t include staff time spent studying the law and determining how to implement it. Beyond that, “campus carry has been uneventful at the Health Science Center,” he said. “We’ve had no incidents or problems.”

University of Texas at Arlington. Officials ordered 156 signs to put up around campus — 98 permanent, 48 that are movable for dorms during summer camps and 10 that are double sided and movable for specific events — at a cost of $17,333.01. That has been the only cost with implementing this law, since the campus is not providing storage lockers, said Bridget Lewis, a UTA spokeswoman. She said there have been no problems with the new law and that it “has been successfully implemented.”

No ‘gunfights on the quad’

Licensed Texans have been able to carry on college campuses, but not in buildings, since lawmakers approved the concealed handgun law more than 20 years ago, lawmakers say.

This new measure lets them carry them into dorms or classrooms, instead of requiring them to take their handguns back to their vehicles before entering the buildings.

“We haven’t had gunfights on the quad that I have heard anything about,” said Jillson, of SMU. “The debate over campus carry was a debate over whether this was a good idea, a sensible thing to do.”

Fletcher said campus carry will not be an issue.

“Are you aware people have been carrying handguns on college campuses for years?” he asked. “They just haven’t been able to go through the double doors and sit down in class.

“The only difference now is they are legally able to come into class.”

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