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- Texas Campus Carry and Greek Organizations
Newsletter > March 2016 > "Texas Campus Carry and Greek Organizations"
Texas Campus Carry and Greek Organizations
Jim Ewbank, Attorney at Cokinos, Bosien & Young in Austin, Texas (Jim frequently represents fraternal organizations in litigation)
On August 1, 2016, every public university in the State of Texas will be required to allow persons who hold a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry a handgun both on the grounds and in their buildings, subject to “reasonable rules and regulations.” Senate Bill 11 was passed by the Texas Legislature despite near universal opposition by leadership of major schools, both public and private, including UT Chancellor William McRaven, former head of Joint Special Operations Command. Nationwide, all 50 states have CHL provisions; 19 ban concealed weapons on college campuses; 23 leave the decision to ban or allow to the college; 8 states allow campus carry (Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin). Long guns (rifles and shotguns) have always been allowed in Texas.
SB 11 allows private schools to opt out, and 25 out of 38 (13 undecided) have opted out. Each public university system has created a Task Force to develop a Campus Carry Policy for the grounds and buildings. Already, the prophesied backlash is occurring from faculty, and UT has lost several distinguished scholars, teachers and Deans who have announced their departure due to the Campus Carry Act. Texas also passed an “Open Carry Act,” but it expressly excluded institutions of higher learning, so there is no “Open Campus Carry” – yet.
So, how does the Campus Carry Act impact fraternities and sororities at public schools? First of all, if your group has a house that is not on university property and is held by a house corporation (not university-owned), Campus Carry does not apply. Texas Penal Code 30.06 (appropriately named for a popular rifle bore) and 30.07 allow private businesses and residences to ban concealed handguns and open carry weapons from their premises, but only if approved notice/signage is posted at all entrances. Failure to strictly comply with those posting provisions means you cannot enforce the trespass laws, so a cottage industry of sign-makers has grown up to ensure compliance (English and Spanish). I strongly recommend you request all House Corporations in concealed weapons states to post these notices.
For those groups which either have houses or meeting rooms on public campuses, you need to obtain a copy of the Task Force policies adopted by each university. So far, policies have been adopted by the University of Texas system, University North Texas system, and the Texas State University system; the University of Houston system has issued a draft policy, and Texas A&M will issue theirs by April 30, 2016.
These policies may vary slightly from system to system, but the core context is the same: universities may regulate the carrying of handguns in University housing, and weapons may not be banned from classrooms. Generally, the Texas schools are adopting policies for on-campus residence halls and University apartments that I believe will be extended to chapter houses and meeting rooms on campus: (1) concealed carry of handguns should be generally prohibited in on-campus residence halls, including chapter houses, with 2 exceptions: (a) a resident’s parents with CHL should be permitted to carry while visiting their child, and (b) concealed carry will be permitted in common areas of on-campus residences, such as lounges, dining areas and study areas; (2) any resident with a CHL must store their handguns in gun safes that meet certain University-specified standards (essentially, print/palm recognition or 5-code ID metal safes). The University of North Texas will provide these safes.
If a student is a licensed holder (must be 21 and go through the State-approved course), and they want to carry a handgun on campus, it must be carried “on or about” their person at all times or secured in a locked vehicle. “On or about” means the handgun can be carried in a backpack or handbag, but it must be within reach at all times. The handguns must be holstered, covering the trigger and trigger guard. Semiautomatic handguns must be carried without a chambered round of ammunition.
Practically speaking, most of the residents at chapter houses will be under 21 and not eligible for a CHL; thus the population in these residences should be small.
As to meeting rooms on campus – these would appear to be common areas, not residences and CHL holders will be allowed by State law to carry a concealed handgun during those chapter meetings.
The question then becomes one of membership – can and should organizations require their members to not carry weapons in on-campus (or off-campus) chapter houses and/or meeting rooms? To do so adds another layer of control by National, although you could argue to do so is within the authority of defining membership requirements. Because the population of students in Greek organizations living in chapter houses or public campuses eligible for CHL (21 years or older) and actually hold those licenses, is so small (less than 1%, according to Texas DPS and UT data), I recommend that National organizations not change their membership requirements on Campus Carry, and educate their members on the effect of the law and cross their fingers. Mixing handguns, young men and women and alcohol is rarely a great combination.