Concealed carry now a reality at North Lake College

A state wide concealed carry policy for all Texas community colleges took effect on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

In June of 2015, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 11, which now permits License to Carry (LTC) holders to keep a concealed handgun on or about his or her person into any institution of higher education in Texas.

On Aug. 1, 2016, the legislation went into effect for all Texas four-year colleges and universities.

“We are prepared, and our students are prepared,” said Carole Gray, Dean of Disability Services, Veterans Affairs and Counseling Services at North Lake College. “We have information going out to student, facility, and staff. This is part of who we are now, and to predict the future wouldn’t do us any good. We can only wait and see.”

“The law does not allow ‘open carry’ on college campuses,” said Lauretta Hill, Dallas County Community College District’s (DCCCD) Commissioner of Public Safety and Security. “Open carry refers to the intentional display of a handgun, including the partially- or wholly-visible display of a handgun stored in a shoulder or belt holster. The law also does not allow the carry of rifles or shotguns on college campuses.

“In the future, students, facility, and staff can expect to see several changes regarding their security, including being required to wear identification name badges. This will also effect visitors who will be required to show identification at the front desk before walking campus grounds.”

Certain campus locations do not allow firearms such as child-care centers, polling places, sporting events, or any locations where grievance or disciplinary proceedings are conducted. The college prohibits the use, possession, or display of any illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon that cannot be concealed.

Proponents of open carry believe arming the ‘good guys’ allows individuals to protect themselves and others in a world where bad guys carry guns.

“I feel that now it’s kind of better, because at least now we can protect ourselves if something happens, especially because of what happened recently,” said Ashley Gonzalez, a North Lake student, referencing a violent campus shooting in May which claimed two lives. “I believe as long as the students and facility are responsible and they know how to use it right and not play around with it, then they should be allowed to bring it here.”

Opponents of open carry are often quick to point out that statistically a gun owner is more likely to be shot by his own weapon than use it to defend himself or others.

“Our focus has been on compliance with the law and making sure that the college community understands what is allowed and what is not allowed,” said Dr. Christa Slejko, President of North Lake College. “Over the last year, we have held public forums to solicit feedback and questions from the community, the employees, and students. We’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the development of the DCCCD policy for implementation of the law.

“I think it means we will be adjusting to this new environment based upon our individual feelings about concealed carry. As you know, this is a controversial subject with proponents and opponents on both sides. In addition to complying with state law, it is also our role to be sure that our facility, staff, students and community understand the law and how concealed carry will look on a college campus. Above all, we don’t want this to be a distraction from our learning mission.

“The only part of the law that is open to local control is in the area of exclusionary, or gun free, zones. With input from the many constituents involved in our planning, the DCCCD Board approved as part of their policy, exclusionary zones. Exclusionary zones cannot be used to work around the intention of the law, but examples of approved gun-free zones including sporting events, the college Health Center, the Counseling Center and lab areas in which there are combustible materials.”