When the University of Texas President Gregory Fenves declared that the system would comply with new state legislation allowing students to bring guns into classes, he sounded hesitant.
Supporters of the measure argue that allowing students to carry firearms will save lives in the case of a school shooting. To emphasize their argument, they staged a pretend mass shooting on the UT Austin campus. “Our goal is to inculcate the significance of everyone being able to protect themselves in any way they want,” the gun rights group that planned the protest said in a statement, referring to gun-free campuses as “victim disarmament zones.”
The law is set to go into effect on August 1, the 50th anniversary of the state’s deadliest school shooting and, by many accounts, the first in the country. In 1966, an ex-Marine and engineering student named Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck of the 30-story clock tower on the Austin campus. Whitman started firing at random, striking 43 people and killing 13.
Gun rights organizations claim that the new law would stop similar tragedies. The fact that they chose to commemorate the UT shooting is ironic, though. Whitman was subsequently killed by a police officer. It so happened that many students on the UT campus were armed in 1966. It’s still debatable if citizen gunfire that day was beneficial.
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Journalist Pamela Colloff of Texas compiled an oral history of the shooting that includes many firsthand stories of citizens picking up weapons.
At the time, J. M. Coetzee, a South African author, was a Ph.D. student at UT. He admitted to Colloff, “I hadn’t completely understood that many people around me in Austin not only owned firearms but had them near at hand and considered themselves free to use them.
Ann Major observed that “it appeared like every other guy had a weapon.” “There was this let’s get him a spirit, this kind of cowboy vibe.”
Brenda Bell claimed, “I don’t know where these vigilantes came from, but they took over Parlin Hall and were running around shooting firearms. Massive testosterone was present.
Two men wearing white shirts and trousers were seen rushing up to the porch of the Pi Phi residence while carrying weapons, according to another eyewitness. Another recalled seeing “students leaning against telephone poles with deer rifles, using the pole, which is very narrow, as their protection. Additionally, they were frantically firing back at the tower.
Luckily, none of these bullets fired by civilians struck uninvolved witnesses. But none of them managed to hit Whitman. After 96 minutes of mayhem and carnage, three police officers and one citizen forced their way to the observation deck and killed Whitman.
Advocates for Texas gun rights maintain that the new law will make campuses safer by raising the probability that a school shooter will be stopped by a bystander. Texas lawmakers imply that the law will somehow stop another shooting by starting to enforce it on the 50th anniversary of the UT shooting. Although Texas students had complete freedom to carry weapons in 1966, Charles Whitman nevertheless managed to kill 14. Keep an eye on us for other details similar to this The Express.