Texas state Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) suggested this week that students at public universities in the state have already brought their firearms to class illegally as evidence that a new gun law won't be as disruptive as some professors say it will.
Fletcher is the sponsor of legislation signed into law this year that will allow people to carry concealed firearms into state university buildings if they have a license. For the past two decades, public college campuses in Texas have been open to concealed carry, but the law going into effect next year will force state universities to permit concealed guns indoors as well.
"It's my contention, but I believe over the last 20 years, the men and women [who carry concealed firearms] have continued to do so every now and then," Fletcher told The Huffington Post. "We just made it legal for them."
Fletcher acknowledged it is illegal to carry a firearm where they are not permitted, but speculated -- admittedly without proof -- that students brought their guns inside because their campuses already allowed concealed weapons outdoors.
"What do you think happened when someone's got a concealed [firearm], what do you think they did when it got time to go into class?" Fletcher asked. He said he suspected that students more often than not chose against walking back to their vehicles to put their firearms away.
"They may have," he continued, "they may be such law-abiding citizens they do that, but they also might've been in fear of their own life, and might've decided to do it."
The new Texas law allows public colleges to set "reasonable" limits on which buildings someone can take a concealed gun into. Public university administrators are currently soliciting input from students, faculty and staff about what limits they would like to see.
Professors in the University of Texas system are currently rallying to block guns from their classrooms and offices. Some have cited fear that someone who's angry would pull a gun on them in their office building, noting extreme examples like Amy Bishop, an Alabama professor who shot and killed three staff members after she was denied tenure.
Several professors have also suggested bringing guns to class would suppress free speech and academic freedom because people may be hesitant to address controversial subjects for fear of someone using their weapon in an emotional moment.
Fletcher responded to that criticism, saying the professors should "use a little common sense." He insisted there are "huge numbers" of faculty and students in Texas who agree with him.
The idea that someone carrying a concealed gun, "that no one would know is there," and that classroom discussion "could cause someone to use deadly force against someone is basically ridiculous," Fletcher said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 350 UT professors have signed a petition to "refuse" to allow guns in their classes. The universities are expected to announce their proposed restrictions on where guns are allowed by the end of the calendar year.
"I assure you that when the college professors and the regents and chancellors come back with where they're going to be not allowed to carry -- maybe in labs or medical facilities or whatever -- if they say they don't want to have it in the classroom because some professor doesn't like it, that's not going to pass," Fletcher said. "That's not going to have the light of day."