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Texas gun law worries incoming students

Updated: 2016-08-05 10:30
By MAY ZHOU in Houston and HEZI JIANG in Beijing (chinadaily.com.cn)

Students attending public colleges and universities in Texas are facing a new reality in the classroom: loaded concealed guns.

As of Aug 1, Senate Bill 11 (Campus Carry), allows holders of a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry a loaded handgun at four-year colleges and universities and junior colleges. The law takes effect at private schools and two-year community colleges next year. Texas is one of just eight states that allows students to carry guns into college buildings.

Supporters of the law say an armed student body could prevent another mass shooting like the one that happened on Aug 1, 1966, at the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin). Charles Whitman, a Marine-trained 25-year-old engineering student, climbed to the 28th-floor observation deck of a campus clock tower and shot 49 people, killing 16.

Opponents of the law passed by the Republican controlled legislature and signed by Republican Governor Gregg Abbott see the potential for more violence.And for some Chinese students studying in Texas, the new law is alarming.

"My knowledge of guns comes from movies and news, and suddenly I realize that guns will be right next to me," said Xing Kaijuan, who will be a freshman at UT-Austin from Shandong province.

"I can't imagine that gun shots would be heard often on an Eden-like campus. A student or teacher could just shoot you when they find you disagreeable. I think tragedy will happen as a result."

Some are not that concerned. Yang Yiran, a senior at the University of Houston from Beijing, said:

"I don't think it will have much impact. After all, criminals can always get hold of guns. Banning guns only disadvantages lawful citizens. Students carrying guns will be a good deterrent to criminals. Some of my friends joked that maybe it's time we get a license so we can take guns to school."

Zeng Zijie, a sophomore and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA)at UT-Austin, said many students in the organization find it unbelievable and ridiculous that guns are allowed on campus, and they said that their parents are worried.

"CSSA has around 1,600 members. We plan to hold a seminar on how to adapt to a gun-zone campus," Zeng said.

Zhang Jing, senior counselor at Beijing New Oriental Vision Overseas Consulting, a leading agency that prepares Chinese students for studying abroad, said the Texas law will discourage some parents from sending their children to the state's public colleges.

"Safety is the number one concern for parents. Most Chinese parents don't fully grasp the reality of the US gun situation. They tend to think it's more dangerous than it actually is. I think at least 30 percent of people in China will exclude Texas as a destination for higher education because of this new law," said Zhang.

Texas students who are residents said they also are concerned.

Natalie Teoh, who lives in Houston and is a sophomore at UT-Dallas, views the new law as utter stupidity: "Campus carry is a wonderful idea because who doesn't want a bunch hormonal and mentally unstable young people encouraged to walk around with guns."

"It's nerve-racking that the already existing form of concealed carry now extends to more public spaces like lecture halls. I hope this will deter potential wrongdoers given that others may be unknowingly armed as well," said WuRuochen, a Houston resident studying at UT-Austin.

Teoh's mother, Nancy Tran, who works at MD Anderson Cancer Center, said the new law "puts our kids in danger".

"This is a bad idea. Young people have a lot going on with their lives. To me, they are mentally and emotionally immature.Sometimes people don't make sound judgement when they have guns easily accessible. They use it for the wrong reasons."

Because the law requires that a gun holder be at least 21, it means most freshman, sophomores and juniors are not eligible to carry guns on campus.

Tran thinks that it's not fair to expose and subject younger students to such a potentially dangerous environment.

"Unfortunately, it's the law, it's passed, and there is nothing we can do other than tell our children to be aware of the surroundings. The law will not be reviewed and changed until something tragic happens, as always is the case," said Tran.



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