By Rebecca LaFlure
Killeen Daily Herald
A push to allow guns in Central Texas College classrooms failed Thursday after board members decided to allow firearms only in vehicles.
The decision came after months of delayed discussions spurred by board member Scott Isdale, who felt officials should allow licensed concealed handgun carriers to bring their weapons to class.
As a compromise, board members agreed to permit students, teachers and visitors to leave their firearms in their vehicles while on campus. The former policy banned people from storing or carrying weapons on the college premises.
The modification did not require a formal vote, but CTC Chancellor Jim Anderson said he will change the written policy to bring it in line with current state laws. Officials will post signs on campus doorways indicating no firearms are allowed inside the buildings.
During an hourlong board workshop meeting, Isdale stated his case for allowing concealed carry at CTC.
Isdale originally asked that members review the college's weapons policy in March in the wake of the Nov. 5 shooting at Fort Hood, saying he wanted to ensure students and faculty members were as safe as possible while on campus.
According to the Texas Penal Code, licensed concealed handgun carriers are prohibited from bringing their firearms on college campuses, unless an institution adopts its own policy allowing it.
"We're talking about a group of people who are highly qualified to carry a gun, … not just students carrying around pistols," said Isdale, adding that banning concealed carry also is a Second Amendment rights issue. "They're typically law-abiding citizens who are concerned about safety."
Texas issued 73,090 licenses in fiscal year 2008. The state requires applicants to pass a training course, a criminal background check and be at least 21 years old.
However, Mary Wheeler, chief police officer at CTC, said allowing students and faculty members to carry weapons would create a safety concern for officers who are trained to look for the person with the gun in violent situations.
"If there are other people with weapons, how do we differentiate who's the bad guy?" she said. "It's going to change the way we're trained."
Deborah Shibley, director of risk management at CTC, said allowing concealed carry could negatively impact CTC's insurance premiums, saying the college would have to pay an additional $50,000 a year for general liability insurance, and its carrier, United Educators, could drop the college as a client.
Anderson added that most of the students and faculty members he's talked to are opposed to allowing guns inside the school's buildings.
Board member Rex Weaver raised concerns about the number of police officers who patrol the campus, particularly during nighttime hours.
Wheeler said the police force consists of a nine-person staff that rotates shifts over a 24-hour period. On an average day, there are two CTC police officers on duty between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., she said.
Mari Meyer, chairwoman of the board, echoed Weaver's concerns.
"If I had to make a choice … it would be to increase the number of people who are working on the safety of the college."
Board members agreed to delay further talks of concealed carry in anticipation of a possible review of the issue by the state Legislature next year.
They also plan to evaluate staffing numbers and training requirements at the CTC Police Department.
"We've got our own safety mechanisms in place," Shibley said. "Let's use them to make a better police force."
Contact Rebecca LaFlure at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548. Follow her on Twitter at KDHeducation.