Students, faculty and staff protest Campus Carry

UTEP+students+protest+Senate+Bill+11+at+Leech+Grove+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+19.

Michaela Román

UTEP students protest Senate Bill 11 at Leech Grove on Monday, Oct. 19.

Maria Esquinca, Managing Editor

Around 40 UTEP students, faculty and staff, listen to Sarah Walker at an Anti-Campus Carry Rally on Monday, Oct. 19, at Leech Groove, as she reads the names of 52 schools where shootings have occurred in the past year.

Walker, a senior English and American literature major, organized the protest, along with four other friends, after she heard Texas Senate Bill 11, known as the Campus Carry Law, was passed. The law will allow concealed handgun license owners to carry a handgun on any public university beginning Aug. 1 2016.

“Just because it’s law doesn’t mean it can’t be repealed or be spoken out against,” Walker said. “This is civil disobedience, this is us saying ‘we are not okay with this.’”

The rally, stood as an act of solidarity with UT Austin’s gun-free UT campaign. Under the campaign, more than 770 UT professors have added their names to a list in opposition to the law, while a public petition has garnered over 7,000 signatures.

Present at the event was David Smith-Soto, senior lecturer of multimedia journalism at UTEP, who made national headlines for positing a sign outside his classroom that said no guns are allowed inside his classroom.

At the rally, Smith-Soto criticized the UT System for not challenging the law in the court.

“A classroom is not a room of four walls on a piece of real estate–it is a dialogue between teacher and student in an environment of trust, security and free expression,” Smith-Soto said at the rally. “Put a gun in there and you destroy the classroom.”

Also at the event was state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, who voted against SB 11. At the rally, Rodriguez said he would continue to speak out against it. He also said it’s important for students, faculty and staff to engage in the process of creating gun-free zones—zones where guns are not allowed on campus, which the law allows to be designated by universities.

“The votes were not there to stop this legislation,” he said. “So the question is where do we want to limit guns on campus?”

The university will conduct Concealed Carry Task Force Town Hall meetings on Oct. 20, 21 and 28, which will allow students, faculty and staff to comment on the issue.

In closing, Walker read an open letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to repeal SB 11.

“To legally allow guns on campus would create an environment of fear and tension,” Walker said. “We are saying loud and clear that we have a right to a gun-free campus.”

Maria Esquinca may be reached at [email protected]