Guns and safety: Be aware, know the law

In case you missed it, the big news last week was that which surrounded the incident of a loaded firearm being illegally brought onto the Washington Street Campus.

Though the person with the gun was arrested without incident and there were no injuries, the incident raised many questions regarding the laws regulating weapons and student awareness of those laws.

Opinions vary as to whether guns should or should not be allowed on school campuses, but there are a few things we agree on.

First and foremost, it initially surprised us just how many people did not know about the incident until they picked up the paper.

But then we stopped and took a look around. We saw backpacks and purses lying in halls. Students walked from class to class with their heads down and eyes on their phones.

Others left cars unlocked the entire day as they went from class to class, bags, books and other items in plain sight.

It’s a bit unsettling how complacent we’ve become at Amarillo College.

In no way is this a call for panic or a dramatic, “Won’t SOMEONE think of the children?!”

But we need to stop and realize that just because we haven’t noticed anything happening, it doesn’t mean something won’t happen.

Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of your belongings. Most of all, be aware of the people around you, and if you see something, SAY something.

The other thing we believe is that everyone should be aware of the current laws that regulate the possession and carrying of firearms in Texas.

When we broke the story about the gun on campus, it was interesting listening to people discussing the story until we realized no one really knew the laws regarding concealed handgun licenses, guns on campus or in cars and weapons in general.

It’s important for students and staff to be aware of what the laws are, not only so they can avoid breaking the law themselves, but so they’ll know when they should report something they see.

In Texas, the laws about firearms are fairly simple. One can purchase long-barreled rifles and shotguns at the age of 18 and handguns at the age of 21.

Any firearm that is legally owned also can be legally carried, but handguns also require a concealed carry license (CHL). No firearm may be carried in a prohibited area, however.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, prohibited areas include, but are not limited to, the premises of:

A business that derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption

Anywhere a high school, collegiate or professional sporting or interscholastic event is taking place

A correctional facility

A hospital or nursing home (unless licensee has written authorization)

An amusement park

A church, synagogue or other place of worship

Anywhere there is a meeting of a governmental entity.

While school campuses are prohibited areas, State Senate Bill 1907, which took effect in September 2013, guarantees the right of CHL holders to store their guns and ammunition in their vehicles on campuses.

Because it is illegal for anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry firearms on college campuses, if you see suspicious behavior or have genuine concerns that someone may have brought a weapon onto an AC campus, you should contact campus police immediately at 806-371-5911.

It is the responsibility all students to be aware of their surroundings and to do their part to keep the campus environment safe for everyone.

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