The true cost of campus carry

Photo by Muliadi Soenaryo

As an adjunct instructor at a community college, I’m highly qualified to teach my students college-level mathematics. I have a bachelor’s degree in math from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in math from the University of Houston, decades of experience teaching math at various levels in Texas and countless hours of professional development in pedagogy, content and instructional technology. I also have a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Houston.

What I have not been trained in is how to distinguish a good guy with a gun from a bad guy with a gun or how to protect my students in a gunfight — a prospect that I’ve had to consider in light of proposed legislation that would allow concealed handguns on college campuses in Texas. I’m a gun owner, but I’ve never related that fact to my job description. My job is to equip my students with knowledge and skills that will prepare them for bright futures.

I recently became a cancer patient at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I’ve been diagnosed with a type of stage 4 cancer that’s highly uncommon at my young age. There’s no readily available cure yet, and I’ll have to live on chemotherapy. But as a fighter, I’ll be optimistic and strong. I have to make the best of the treatment available to me and any trials that could buy me more time with my husband, young children and family.

That’s why it’s infuriating to know that so-called campus carry legislation could hurt cancer research funding. The Houston Chronicle reported last month that implementing campus carry could cost the University of Texas System more than $39 million over six years. Julie Penne, a spokeswoman for M.D. Anderson, told the Chronicle that the costs "would be covered out of proceeds from patient revenue, which would normally go toward cancer research, education and prevention efforts."

Even more astoundingly, if you total the costs reported for all six of the university systems mentioned in the Chronicle report, campus carry would cost Texas about $59 million.

Let’s see this bill for what it is: an attempt by the gun lobby to further its ultimate goal of guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked.

Americans reject this concept. Guns-on-campus bills, like Texas’ Senate Bill 11, have staggeringly low support among students, faculty and staff. A 2013 Ball State University poll, for instance, found that 78 percent of college students in the Midwest opposed allowing concealed handguns on campuses and 79 percent wouldn’t feel safe if faculty, students or visitors were allowed to bring guns onto campuses. Another Ball State poll found that 95 percent of college presidents opposed allowing concealed handguns on campus.

Here’s what else we know about campus carry: Colleges are relatively safe from gun violence but are rife with other factors like alcohol, drugs and depression that make easy gun availability dangerous. Despite the gun lobby’s claims that firearms will protect women from campus sexual assault, there’s no evidence to support this notion. In fact, the presence of guns on campus may compound the dangers associated with high rates of acquaintance rape on campus.

As a mother of toddler and infant children, a college instructor and now a cancer patient, I am disgusted by our Texas lawmakers for kowtowing to the interests of extremists and the gun lobby. Our legislators are letting these extremists bully them into prioritizing dangerous, unpopular bills that, if passed, will siphon funds from a hospital that is vital to my family and other families like mine.

Campus carry would bring guns into my workplace at the potential expense of finding a cure for a disease that is trying to kill me.

Catherine Nance

Member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America