Open Letter to Hon’ble Governor Greg Abbott regarding Campus Carry Concealed Guns Policy – Senate Bill 11
Dated: 27th February, 2016
Hon’ble Governor Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, Texas 78701
The Senate Bill (S.B.) No. 11 relating to the carrying of handguns on the campuses of and certain other locations associated with institutions of higher education; providing a criminal penalty.
UT Austin’s Campus Carry Policies – S.B. 11
At the threshold, I most humbly request you to judiciously go through this communique of mine, which I have written as a responsible law abiding and concerned parent of a student at University of Texas, Austin.
Sir, you yourself have been a student of UT, Austin on the top of being a lawyer as well and hence, will be in a better position to appreciate our concern which has both legal as well as moral/ethical dimensions.
I always thought and believed that schools and colleges were temples of education rather revered places for inculcation of moral, ethical and intellectual values. But the recent decision of UT Austin to allow faculty members, staff, students and visitors to carry arms and ammunition openly and visibly within the campus has not only disturbed me, my peace of mind but has shaken my whole faith and perception about the educational institutions especially in context of the United States.
The apprehension, fear and disappointment is not only amongst the parents but is equally there amongst all sections of the society be it faculty or staff members and students. Has Dean Fritz Steiner triggered domino effect? Where will it stop? Steiner one of the most prominent academicians and a long-time dean of a prominent architecture school belonging to the University of Texas, Austin has resigned from his post. His exit is entirely attributable to UT Austin’s Campus Carry Policies – Senate Bill 11 or in other words entry of concealed guns in the campus.
In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Steiner said he “would have never applied for another job” if Texas’s Gov. Greg Abbott hadn’t signed a law last year that will soon allow people to carry concealed handguns inside college classrooms all over the state. The S.B. 11 treats equals as unequal where private universities have a liberty to choose to not to be governed by the new rule whereas public universities like the UT Austin have no elbow space to opt out. Private universities including Baylor, Rice and Southern Methodist have already banned concealed weapons.
Hence, any licensed gun holder of 21 years and above will be able to carry concealed firearms into the campus buildings. “I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn’t believe in,” Steiner told the Tribune.
Sir, you have been an eminent lawyer yourself for so many years and I can share with you that there are so many legal flaws with this S.B. 11 and its operational effect that if challenged in a court of law, it can’t stand the test of law. But why law, Sir, we should talk about morals and ethics; peace and harmony. Why are we arming our younger generation? For what?
I read what Hon’ble Gregory L. Fenves Esq., President of University of Texas – Austin said in a communique published on the UT Austin website “I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date. I empathize with the many faculty members, staffers, students and parents of students……………” Earlier, he had also said that “The presence of handguns at an institution of higher learning is contrary to our mission of education and research, which is based on inquiry, free speech, and debate.” If that be the thought, belief and ideology, then how does the inner conscience of any reasonable person permit treading a path, which one doesn’t believe in and nor do the people affected by it?
It has thoroughly confused me as a human leave aside my status as a parent of a pupil at UT. None of the stake holders are agreeable with SB 11. It’s absurd to have a policy govern you, which is detrimental to all universally.
Sir, I am an international corporate/commercial lawyer from India; a founder of renowned global law firm. I am also recipient of a prestigious Mahatma Gandhi Sewa (Service) Medal apart from being Secretary General of SAARCLAW (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation in Law). I have travelled all across the globe on several occasions and in comparison to all nations, I found United States to be the best destination for learners and students. I decided to send my child to UT Austin as on doing my research amongst several educational institutions all across, USA, UK, Australia, Canada and India, I found UT Austin to be the most apt and holistic centre of educational impart.
However, the new gun carrying policy introduced by the State of Texas through the Senate Bill (S.B.) No. 11 relating to the carrying of handguns on the campuses of and certain other locations associated with institutions of higher education; which is to take effect from Aug 1st, 2016 is wholly unlawful and blatant breach of our understanding as parents with UT Austin. I would not have sent my child/son to UT Austin, had I known that midway of his educational course, we as parents will have to go through this turmoil and uncertainty. This is not force majeure but an act of betrayal and blatant breach of our fundamental understanding with UT Austin or in other words State of Texas. My child and several thousands of other children were admitted in UT Austin in 2014 on a premise that there were no concealed arms and guns on the campus. However, now the law has mandated otherwise, which is a blatant breach of my understanding and that of thousands of students including my child with UT Austin; hence, the whole situation needs a correction by lawful means.
It is a complete shocker for me and many more whose children are studying in UT. There are so many more who have decided to decline fresh admission offers for the new session. There is not only an element of overwhelming fear amongst the parents and near/dear ones of those who are attending UT but also they feel disillusioned and to an extent cheated; because had they known that the guns are going to be allowed on the campus in a concealed fashion, they would not have sent their children to study in UT.
The law is so harsh against innocents that public institutions of higher education cannot circumvent the intent of the Act by imposing administrative bans and sanctions on concealed handgun licensees on their campuses. This is so horrifying for people like us who live so far and have sent their loved ones to study in UT Austin, now to become an arms bazaar than an educational institution. The arms will be allowed in dorms and residential facilities, which is so hazardous.
Kindly take my word as a truthful testament because I have no ulterior motive to write this communication. My instant communication is based purely on facts and circumstances. This gun carrying law and consequent directives by UT Austin, taints its sanctity as an institution. It will cause enormous interference to academic environment and create unpredictable environment in campus. There will be obvious escalation in violent crimes including self-inflicting crimes like suicides of students as well as accidental mishaps. What is the objective behind carrying open arms and ammunition? Is it self-defence? Do you admit that there is war like situation in UT Austin and it is necessary to arm everyone?
Instead of teaching non-violence to our new generation and generation next, you are focusing in finding ways to keep guns in the classrooms. It is logically felt by many that this decision of UT Austin will impede the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints that is integral to the growth and sustenance of any educational institution leave alone UT.
The guns in campus buildings would have serious negative impact on the capacity to educate students. The existence of guns would create an environment of fright, panic, anxiety and coercion that would hinder the skill of a teacher to teach students; and likewise also affect with students’ ability to learn. USA stands for liberty and freedom of speech and expression. Guns on campus are a direct peril to the fundamental values of United States. There is no research, logic or reasoning for this primitive ferocious law.
Several experts including University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral who formerly led the U.S. Special Operations Command, has called the campus-carry law detrimental to student safety.
Several credible studies and research reports have indicated that the presence of concealed weapons on campus does not lead to drop in crime, on the contrary they trigger violence and other vices.
This policy of gun flaunting will jeopardizes public safety and make our children highly vulnerable. I have spoken to so many people in the last one week, and I can say this with whatever conviction and expertise, I have at my command that majority of Indians in specific and Asians in general, who are/were contemplating sending their children to UT Austin are having a serious re-thought of withdrawing or declining. The ones like me, who have already sent their children are regretting.
Having stated the above, Sir please take corrective steps. As a responsible and concerned lawyer parent of a child studying in UT Austin, I am willing to challenge the S.B. 11 in any Court or Tribunal of law in the United States including the UN Human Rights Council, if it helps. The grounds of challenge are meritoriously and overwhelming legal including the breach of principle of promissory estoppel and equality. Students and parents cannot be put in a disadvantageous position subsequently i.e. post admission into UT Austin. Hence, it appears to be grossly illegal act of blatant material breach of understanding/agreement with UT Austin or in the other words State of Texas. It tantamount to alteration of admission conditions. Accordingly, this communication is without prejudice.
Thanking you in deep anticipation,
Hemant Batra, B.A. LL.B
Advocate – International Corporate/Commercial Lawyer
Secretary General, SAARCLAW
Mentor, D-Labs – Indian School of Business
Founder – International Lead, Kaden Boriss Legal
New Delhi, India