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Guns On Texas Campuses Won't Make Them Safer, University Chancellor Says


Now we're going to hear from retired Navy Admiral William McRaven. For years, he ran U.S. Special Operations Command. He oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Now McRaven is chancellor of the University of Texas System, and he's been fighting a different battle. The Texas state legislature just passed a law to allow concealed handguns on college campuses. McRaven vocally objected to that proposal, and he joined us to discuss what happens on campus now that the bill has passed. Chancellor McRaven, welcome to the program.


SHAPIRO: You oversaw Special Operations for so many years. What have you got against guns?

MCRAVEN: (Laughter) Well, actually, I like guns. I'm a big Second Amendment guy. I've probably got nine guns and six swords and two tomahawks, so I'm all about weapons. My concern has just been that in my new role as an educator, yeah, I want to make sure that we make our campuses as safe as possible. And the addition of concealed weapons on campus just didn't seem like a good idea to me.

SHAPIRO: You described some of your concerns in a letter to the Texas state legislature. And you said there's great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals aged 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds. Is that your main concern as opposed to intentional acts of violence against others?

MCRAVEN: Yeah, I think it's broader than that, Ari. I mean, the fact of the matter is, you know, any time you introduce guns into an environment that has high stress, you know, you have a number of concerns. Obviously, we do have concerns about self-inflicted gun wounds and accidental discharges, but it is also this kind of perception that's out there that concerns me is that people will believe that Texas campuses are less safe. And that perception can, in fact, be a reality. But it also can have kind of second and third order effects in terms of difficulty recruiting and just the belief that, again, we don't have the same academic freedom that we might have had. Having said all that, I will tell you that while I am a little disappointed that the bill passed, I'm also very appreciative that the state legislature has given us the latitude to take a look at where we allow guns on campus.

SHAPIRO: You say you're concerned there may be a perception that University of Texas campuses are less safe and that that perception could become a reality. Are you willing to say right now that under this law the campuses are, in fact - will be when the law goes into effect - less safe?

MCRAVEN: No, I'm not prepared to say that because, you know, my time in the military has always been one that taught me that, you know, you argue a point up until a decision is made. And the state legislature has made a decision - and presuming that the governor signs the bill - and it will go into effect. And then my job as the chancellor is to make sure that we continue to make the campuses as safe as possible, and we're going to do that.

SHAPIRO: There may be people who read the letter you wrote to the Texas legislature where you say, quote, "I feel the presence of concealed weapons will make a campus a less safe environment" and hear what you're saying now and think that you've just sort of changed your talking points to adjust to the facts on the ground as they now stand.

MCRAVEN: Well, the point is I did feel and I felt that the introduction of weapons would make the campuses less safe. Having said that, now that we have to implement this, I'm going to take every step possible to ensure the maximum safety.

SHAPIRO: Tell us more about the steps that you plan to take now. Are there places that you know concealed weapons will not be allowed? Are there places that you think they will be allowed? Will there be concealed weapons in the stands of the University of Texas football game?

MCRAVEN: Right, so what we will do is we're going to take a very thoughtful and deliberate approach over the next three to four months as I spend some time with the presidents to make sure I understand what their concerns are. And each campus is a little bit different. Having said that, you know, we're very sensitive to those areas where we think that there would be, you know, a high level of anxiety or emotion. So, certainly, we're going to take a very hard look at sporting events, and, intuitively, I would tell you that I'm disinclined to have any sort of concealed weapons at sporting events. But there are a lot of other venues where emotions get high, and we need to make sure that in those areas where that is a possibility that we limit the availability of concealed weapons.

SHAPIRO: Admiral William McRaven is former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He's now chancellor of the University of Texas System. Thanks very much for joining us.

MCRAVEN: My pleasure, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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