Will Oklahoma be next for campus carry?

Bob Mueller
Contributing Writer

On August 1, a Texas law went into effect allowing concealed carry of firearms on public college campuses. Will Oklahoma be next?

Since 2011, the Oklahoma Self Defense Act has allowed concealed carry license holders to secure their firearms in their vehicles in campus parking lots. Licensees may request permission from the college president to carry their firearm on campus on a case-by-case basis.

The process at TCC involves a written request to the president, a background check, and clear documentation of the threat to the requestor. College policy is that requests will be reviewed within 30 days.

TCC President and CEO Leigh Goodson says in the last two years, there have been two requests for permission to carry on TCC campuses. One was granted and one was denied.

Statewide, from 2009-2014, there were 34 exemption requests, with 13 of those being granted, according to Angela Caddell, Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications for The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Does President Goodson foresee any changes in state law? “We don’t think this (campus carry) is the next right answer. We think the system is working as designed. We enjoy having local control, and being able to operate the college from the college.”

Vice President for Administration Sean Weins pointed out that the TCC Police Department is staffed with officers fully certified by the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET. “They train regularly with Tulsa Police and the sheriff’s department,” and have a common radio channel, he said. “We also have an escort program in place where the campus police department will walk you to and from your car and to and from class.”

TCC Campus Police Lieutenant William McKelvey said there have been 80 calls for campus escorts so far this calendar year. “That’s about average for us,” he added. “We also have about 60 users of the RAVE Guardian4TCC app.” The app allows quick contact with TCC police as well as a small circle of friends or family.

Both Weins and Goodson stressed that campus safety is an ongoing discussion that they consider critical to the learning process. Dr. Goodson said, “If you don’t feel safe, you can’t learn. We believe students are safer if the people that are on campus that have weapons are those that are on our team.”

The State Regents, through the Campus Safety and Security Task Force, have passed resolutions in 2014 and 2015 announcing its opposition to any changes in Oklahoma laws. The resolution states “there is no scenario where allowing guns on campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.” The resolution also points out that the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators asserts that there is no credible evidence to suggest that concealed weapons on campus will make campuses safer.

Caddell said, the state higher education system “has a clear and united position against allowing guns on campus. To be clear, we do not oppose the Second Amendment or gun ownership. We oppose any effort that would change the current law with regard to weapons on our campuses.”

Students For Concealed Carry Oklahoma Director Casey Wehrenberg thinks there will be changes, but stresses, “It’s really going to be baby steps. We’re trying to organize more chapters (of SFCC) but, we’re running in to political pressure being exerted against any faculty members who might offer to sponsor a chapter.” The organization is closely monitoring the rollout of the Texas law though, with Wehrenberg saying “If it works in Texas, why can’t it work here?”

But just how dangerous is a TCC campus?

The federally-mandated annual Clery Act reports indicate it is a fairly safe place.

From 2013-2015, there have been a total of ten simple or aggravated assaults on or around campus, with six of those occurring on public property.

In the same period, there were 28 threat or intimidation offenses reported (all on campus or campus property).

Public property includes streets, sidewalks and parking facilities that are within the campus or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus.

McKelvey said there was one non-student weapons violation in both 2015 and 2016. In the first, two people were shooting in an unused area on the Northeast Campus, near the fire training area. In the second, a non-student came on campus while armed, looking for a friend.

According to SpotCrime and Tulsa Police Crime Maps, the areas immediately surrounding the four major campus areas are not crime-ridden. The majority of the reported offenses are simple thefts, generally from motor vehicles, as opposed to robberies and assaults.

But because TCC is a commuter campus with no student housing, students must travel to and from campus daily, sometimes late in the evening, and sometimes through less-safe neighborhoods. Wehrenberg said that realization was one of the reasons behind the 2011 changes that now allow students to lock firearms in their cars.

Campus carry can have a number of unintended consequences as well.

Fritz Steiner, former dean of the UT Austin School of Architecture, resigned his position there over concerns about the new law, along with economics professor Daniel Hamermesh.

Steiner told the Texas Tribune in an interview, “I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry. I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn’t believe in.”

Texas A & M economics professor John Ellison retired early over the law, saying, “It absolutely destroys the environment of teaching.”

An August 26 post at Politifact lists several other examples of faculty or students rescinding applications or offers to appear at UT campuses due to the new law.

But Wehrenberg said, “I’ve never heard of a student really willing to hurt a professor over a grade,” and pointed out that campus carry means that faculty and staff can carry as well.

Singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne recently cancelled a show at University of Texas at Austin because of the new Texas law.

He said on Facebook, “no matter how hard I try to understand the rationale for allowing guns on campus or more broadly, the ‘concealed carry’ law in general, I just cannot in any way support that ideology. There are a lot of things this country needs more of, but guns aren’t one of them.”

Students who want an escort to or from their cars or class can call Campus Police at extension 8888 from an on-campus phone or (918) 595-8888.

Getting Permission to Carry at TCC

Current law and TCC policy requires students, faculty, staff and visitors to secure firearms in their vehicles. A college president may grant permission to carry on an individual basis. To request permission to carry on a TCC campus, permit-holders must submit a written request to the Office of the President with the following information:

  • A copy of the requestor’s valid concealed carry permit
  • Disclosure of any mental health diagnoses and current medications submitted from a doctor
  • The specific period of time and campus properties the request is being made for
  • The type of firearm, maximum capacity of the magazine, and type of ammunition in use.
  • Information regarding the level of the immediate threat; whether the threat is internal or external to TCC; the relationship of the requestor to TCC (student, faculty, staff, contractor, etc.); the relationship of the requestor to the threat; the ability of TCC PD to provide safety measures; and the background of the requestor with regard to violations of the Student Code of Conduct.
  • If permission is granted, a physical copy of the permission letter must be carried by the requestor at all times when carrying a concealed weapon on campus.

TCC will conduct a background check on the requestor, and make the results of that check available to TCC PD and law enforcement agencies in the TCC service area. Requests will be acted upon within upon within 30 days.

Concealed Carry in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Self Defense Act is found in Title 21 of Oklahoma Statutes, section 1290.

  • Licenses are issued by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for 5 or ten years.
  • Oklahoma recognizes concealed carry permits issued by any other state.
  • Licensees must be 21, a United States citizen, an Oklahoma resident, complete a safety and training course, and “demonstrate competence and qualification” with a pistol.
  • Certain people are prohibited from receiving a license, including those with a felony conviction, misdemeanor convictions for crimes of violence or stalking, misdemeanor convictions for drug crimes in the last ten years, and those with certain mental health issues.
  • Weapons are prohibited in certain places, including city, county, state and federal buildings; police stations, jails and prisons, and public and private elementary and secondary schools.
  • On college campuses, licensees are allowed to keep their firearms secured in their vehicles, and colleges may not prohibit this. Firearms may be carried on campus with the written consent of the college or university president or technology center school administrator. (Title 21, §1277 F 3)

For more information, see the OSBI Self-Defense Act page at https://www.ok.gov/osbi/Handgun_Licensing/index.html

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