Guns and college football: Texas law puts coaches in tough situations

AUSTIN, Texas — Bob Harkins knows a little bit about the mental, social and philosophical impact of carrying a weapon. The University of Texas’ associate vice president, campus safety and security trudged up infamous Hamburger Hill in the bloody 1969 battle that cost 72 American lives during the Vietnam War.

“I spent 27 years in the Army,” Harkins said. “I put a round in the chamber when I was fixing to kill somebody. I didn’t walk around even in a war zone with a round in my chamber.”

On a warm winter morning earlier this year, Harkins made that statement in the context of evaluating Texas’ still-new concealed carry law.

It was a year ago this month the state of Texas became the eighth state to allow concealed weapons on its campuses.

In one of the nation’s richest athletic departments, campus life got a bit more complicated. Suddenly, there are potentially a lot of rounds in chambers of guns on this renowned campus carried by young, sometimes inebriated, not-yet-fully-mature college students.

The law states students are allowed to carry licensed, concealed weapons on the Texas campus and in certain buildings.

Former coach Charlie Strong had to adjust his core values, which include honesty, treating women with respect and not using drugs or owning guns.

Banning guns is not as simple here or elsewhere as other bedrock principles for coaches. In Kansas, it’s theoretically unlawful for coaches to ban guns because of what are the nation’s least-restrictive gun laws.

Coaches at the University of Texas may try to ban guns from their program, but they cannot legally ban players from taking them into classrooms.

That bothers some professors.

“Carrying a handgun and the possession handguns is prohibited at all Longhorn sporting events,” Texas spokesman John Bianco said. “UT athletics has the discretion to include practices, scrimmages and training session in that exclusion as well. Thus, if a student-athlete is licensed to own a gun, that is their right, but they cannot bring it to the football facilities or at football functions.”


Graphic illustration by Michael Meredith

We said it was complicated. Given the tragedies at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, the question needs to be asked: Why doesn’t every coach in the country ban guns right now?

The answer, increasingly: They…

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