A Campus Carry Task Force, meeting for a final time Thursday, has formed a draft plan outlining how the University of North Texas will handle guns on campus.
The task force concluded its work and presented its draft policy to UNT President Neal Smatresk. But some details are yet to be worked out. The plan is designed to comply with a new state law allowing adults 21 and older with concealed handgun licenses to carry their pistols on campus starting Aug. 1.
The law allows public universities to create gun-free zones on campus, and the big decisions have revolved around crafting those zones.
The draft policy, obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle, outlines the proposed gun-free zones. Apogee Stadium and the UNT Coliseum would be gun free during sporting events, but guns would be allowed the rest of the time.
Additionally, there will be gun-free zones where minors are on campus for camps or services and where health and wellness services are provided.
“We’re in a place where we think we’ve produced a very thoughtful, very careful document, but we’re open to more information to lead to a better policy,” Smatresk said.
This document is just a first draft, though, with a few minor changes waiting to be made. Smatresk said he is waiting for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to provide legal guidance on several issues.
Among the questions are whether certain classrooms can be designated gun-free zones, requirements for gun storage in dormitories and how to craft temporary gun bans on portions of campus.
In addition to the gun-free zones, the UNT plan gives the campus police chief power to declare the campus gun-free during a “period of disruption.” University officials would also be allowed to impose temporary bans on guns at big events and other programs that feature a prominent speaker.
For example, if someone was coming to speak in the Gateway Center Ballroom for a lecture series, that space could be declared gun free for the entire week leading up to the event.
Rules for handling guns in residence halls are still unfolding. The issues are complicated. As proposed, students with CHLs will be roomed in semi-private rooms, where they are the only person in the bedroom area.
These students would get a safe and lock provided by the university to store their weapons.
The campus carry law is not to be confused with the open carry law that goes into effect Jan. 1. Campus carry requires guns to be concealed under clothing or hidden in purses or backpacks.
So, portions of the UNT policy focus on how to report a weapon not being concealed properly, sanctions for violations of the policy and instructions detailing that only police officers can ask to see a person’s concealed handgun license.
A final policy is slated to be on Smatresk’s desk by January. Once he receives the document, he will begin vetting the policy with the university lawyers and seeking more feedback from the campus community.
“This isn’t simply presidential perogative, I want everyone to have a chance to comment,” Smatresk said.
The task force at Texas Woman’s University will not have a draft policy ready until next month, TWU spokeswoman Amanda Simpson said. Both campuses created task forces this fall.
Their recommendations will go to their respective presidents and, eventually, to their boards of regents for an approval process.
At UNT, the 23-person task force is led by Eric Fritsch, chairman and professor of criminal justice, who did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
There was also representation from various departments and offices, as well as students.
The Texas Legislature, meeting last spring, passed the so-called campus-carry bill despite opposition from leaders in higher education, including officials at UNT and TWU.
The bill requires public universities to adopt a formal policy by the time guns are allowed on campus starting Aug. 1. While public universities are working through the policy planning process, private colleges are exempt from the law. Of the private universities that have discussed the issue publicly — schools such as Southen Methodist University, Texas Christian University and Rice University — none so far have announced plans to allow concealed weapons on campus.
UNT’s task force has met every two weeks since mid-September to work on the policy, and hosted forums for students, faculty and staff across campus in preparation for making its recommendations.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.
PROPOSED GUN-FREE ZONES
The proposed locations for gun-free zones on the University of North Texas campus, as stated in a draft of the campus carry policy, are:
Where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event; sports club or intramural athletic competition is taking place.
Locations used as a church, synagogue or other places of religious worship.
Designated polling places on election days.
Where the campus is used by a court, unless the carrier has written authority from the court.
The non-public, secure portion of the UNT Police Department.
Locations where medical, health and clinical services are provided. Specifically: psychology clinic in Terrill Hall; speech and hearing clinic in the Speech and Hearing Building; Welch Street Complex B.
Where minors receive services. Specifically: the Child and Resource Center in Matthews Annex; the Child Development Lab; the Kristin Farmers Autism Center; McConnell Hall.
Where special student services are provided. Specifically: the University Union and Meditation Room.