Faculty, students and staff voice concerns about gun control

Alonso Moreno, Copy Editor

In a room with about 40 people, a tense atmosphere could be felt as one man rose from his seat and approached the microphone to speak once more. “Free speech is dead,” he said. “This new law has killed it.”

The man delivering the heartfelt speech was Patrick Timmons, political science professor at UTEP, one of the many who participated in the UTEP Campus Concealed Carry Taskforce Town Hall Meetings.

Although tempers flared and emotions ran high, the purpose of the meetings was to hear the concerns from the campus and discuss how the university could make recommendations to the UT System.

“I would like to remind everyone that the task force is not discussing the law, this is happening come August 1,” said Gary Edens, chair of the taskforce and vice president of student affairs. “We want to hear your thoughts, opinions and concerns so we can take them into account when we make our recommendations.”

Faculty members were predominant throughout the meetings and their main concern was almost unanimous­—no guns in the classroom.

“The concept of gun-free zones does not exist in the legislation, so UTEP is trying to create something that does not exist,” said Timmons. “To talk about a gun-free zone or an exclusion zone is a misinterpretation of the statue, but what the university can do is establish reasons for why guns aren’t allowed in certain parts of campus.”

When asked about why he felt freedom of speech was dead due to the new law, Timmons said that has been threatened in the past due to his teachings.

“I have been threatened in the classroom for talking to people about history. I talk about the history of gay people in this country, or talk about the history of sexuality, or gender, or discrimination against women,” said Timmons. “If you give someone the possibility to respond to you, when they are upset, using a gun instead of their voice, why are we even in the classroom?”

One of the more popular arguments when the law was still being debated was that armed citizens would deter mass shootings.

“I have seen gun control and it does not work, and I don’t think it would work in a college campus,” said Mariana Prieto, junior public relations major. “Right now we are against guns on every campus and it does not work, we still have shootings, so why do you think more gun control would work?”

According to an FBI study of active shooter incidents in the U.S., between 2000 and 2013, only five incidents ended after an armed individual, who was not law enforcement personnel, exchanged gunfire with the shooters.

“When you know there is an active shooter, your adrenaline just goes and you have to be trained, you have to know what to do,” said Giniva Rodriguez, a trained weapons professional who was present at the town hall meetings. “Anybody can stop an active shooter, but you have to be aware how you are going to respond, what is behind your target, what ammo to use. You are going to have a guns, but the debate is going to be that people can cause more danger or casualties instead of helping the situation.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 505 accidental deaths in 2013 due to firearms, which was only 0.3 percent of total accidental deaths in the nation.

Present at the town hall meetings as well, albeit in less numbers, were people supporting guns on campus and constitutional carry as well.

“If you are gonna promise 100 percent security and there are no guns coming in within this perimeter, are you also going to be willing to back that up by paying my family a life insurance policy?” said James Penado, a pro-gun attendee.

Although no discussion of economics was brought up, Edens explained to all present that the state would not be providing funding to cover the costs of implementing the new law; it would all have to be covered by the university.

The taskforce and UTEP will submit their preliminary campus plan to the UT System for review on Dec. 4, and will be sending its final plan on Dec. 16. UTEP will begin to implement its plans by February of next year and prepare for the August 1 effective date.

Alonso Moreno may be reached at [email protected]