Since 1995, state law has allowed Texan citizens with a concealed handgun license to carry  guns in public places, but not in university buildings. The Senate Bill 11 will allow gun holders to carry their weapons on campuses, starting tomorrow, August 1.

The law will let anyone who is older than 21 and holds a Texas handgun license to carry a weapon not only into university buildings but also into dormitories and classrooms. Every university has the right to map out where will be guns forbidden and allowed. At the University of Texas at Austin, professors will be able to decide if they allow guns in their offices. Many have been worried about the prospect of schools adhering to the law.

University of Texas Tower
The University of Texas. On June 13, 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed the controversial Senate Bill 11. Image credit: University of Texas.

A controversial law

On June 13, 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed the controversial Senate Bill 11. Although it is an “open carry law”, it is a little bit more restrictive than how it sounds.

The Bill was heavily fought, with many believing it would lead to more mass shootings at campuses. Its advocates, on the other hand, argue that it would serve as a self-defense method in the middle of massive attacks.

Senator Brian Birdwell has stated that his objective had nothing to do with mass shootings and everything to do with stopping the student’s Second Amendment rights violations by public schools.

A bloody Past

The fact that the Bill 11 will go into effect on August 1, has upset many since it also marks the 50th Anniversary of the University of Texas Clock Tower Shooting.

On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, an engineering student at the University and ex-Marine, aged 25, killed his wife and mother in the early hours of the morning. At around 6:00 a.m. he called to both his wife and mother’s workplaces, stating both of them were ill and could not go to work on that day.

University of Texas 2
The University of Texas. Image credit: Wikimedia.

Five hours later he arrived at the University of Texas campus and ascended to the observation deck area of the clock tower, where he barricaded himself. Whitman started shooting. The first person he shot was Claire Wilson, an eight-month pregnant anthropology student. The bullet penetrated Wilson’s abdomen and killed her child.

The Police Department was notified, and all the active officers were ordered to go to the campus. Many civilians volunteered to help, not only assisting the wounded but trying to shoot Whitman, which led him to take cover.

Two hours after the shooting began, Whitman was killed by police officers. Whitman shot 46 people and killed 14.  It has been the second worst school shooting in the U.S., only behind the Virginia Tech Massacre of 2007. Claire Wilson was one of the people that fought harder to prevent the Senate Bill 11 of passing.

Monday memorials

The 50 year anniversary is important for the survivors of the massacre. The incident was the first mass shooting on a campus, and the university tried to avoid bringing it up for decades.

According to the Texas Tribune, it was not until 1999 that the first memorial was built on the campus. On 2014, the survivors asked the university for something more, that will now be unveiled on Monday.

The event will begin at 11:00 a.m. with the tolling of bells from the tower. Eight minutes later, signaling the hour the shooting began, the clock will be stopped for a day.

The new memorial honoring the victims will be unveiled, flags will also be at half-staff and the University president will give a speech. At noon, S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett will speak. Claire Wilson will also give a speech.

Security Issues

In the past, pro and anti-gun advocates have carried out loud protests. The university’s authorities even gambled with the idea of moving the memorial event to another date, but then decided not to.

Erica Saenz, an associate vice president has stated: “We are letting [both sides] know what we are planning and hoping there is some mutual respect, no matter what side of the issue you are on”.

As of today, pro-gun organizations have declared that they have no plans for Monday. In the case of the anti-gun organization, some were planning an “anti-violence” workshop, which will take place after the memorial.

Joan Neuberger, history professor and leader of the Gun Free UT movement claimed that “there are a couple things in the works for the 2nd but it’s summer and people are gone right now, so we are really concentrating on organizing for the first week of classes.”

Sources: My Stateman