By Ricardo Felix
Students, faculty and staff made their way to the EPCC Valle Verde campus’ cafeteria annex on April 27 when EPCC President Dr. William Serrata addressed the campus during his town hall meeting.
Serrata addressed and elaborated on topics including campus tuition increase, office relocations, a new Fort Bliss campus, but most notably, the possibility of open-carry guns on campus.
With the Texas House of Representatives approving House Bill 910, which will allow licensed citizens to openly carry handguns in a shoulder or hip holster, the bill will only need Gov. Greg Abbot to sign off on it to go into effect in January 2016.
Ricardo Felix / Tejano Tribune
President Serrata speaking at Valle Verde campus on April 27 for the Town
Hall meeting announcing the possible open-carry gun policy.
“We already have plans and procedures [in case of an active shooter] since post-Virginia Tech attack,” Serrata said during his address. “Every institution has to have table-top exercises and has to have an emergency crisis plan. We already have those. I hope and pray that we never have an incident, but if we do, we have plans and ways to deal with that.”
Serrata said that he knows there will be differing viewpoints on the open-carry topic, including the argument of safety.
“We anticipate that they will [pass House Bill 910]. Then we will move forward on implementing a plan and process to deal with it,” he said.
If passed, the state of Texas will become the 45th state to allow the open carry of handguns in public.
“It hasn’t been approved yet,” Joseph Barragan, captain of the EPCC Police Department, said.
“Professionally, how I feel, I think it's not a good idea for the law to pass. I think it disrupts the learning environment for the students. You are talking about a few that want to carry a weapon. The majority of the students don’t like the idea.”
On April 22, the Texas House of Representatives voted 101-42 in favor of House Bill 910.
With the issue already being talked about around campus, Assistant Professor of Psychology Claudia Cochran said some aspects concern her.
“To get a license, you do have to show that you have a sound mind, so that’s good,” she said. “I’m glad that a lot of the people that do carry concealed weapons are responsible, but as a psychology teacher, I also know that sometimes just having a weapon makes you more likely to use it.”
Currently, Texans who carry a handgun in public must have a concealed handgun license and are required to keep the gun hidden. Under state law, residents 21 and older, as well as active-duty military, can obtain a license after undergoing a background check, taking classes and passing written and hands-on tests.
Texans can already openly carry long guns, such as rifles.
Not in favor of the idea, Tereza Nevarez, EPCC government instructor, said the open-carry would not help in any way.
“I think it only puts students in danger and faculty in danger,” she said. “Guns and education don’t go hand-in-hand. You are here to learn and guns don’t have anything to do with it.”
Wanting to protect his Second Amendment rights, EPCC Child Development student Xavier Marrufo said he is in support of the bill.
"I like the open-carry idea," Marrufo said. "It goes with our constitiutional right to bare arms. Some people are really against the idea, but this is Texas and Texas has always been known to most as a gun-slinging state."