Today is the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas tower shooting. It also happens to be the day that Texas’ infamous “Campus Carry” law goes into effect, allowing students at universities around the state to work toward their college degrees with guns on their hips.
This is an interesting time for the new law to go into effect. After all, the 50th anniversary is one of the big ones.
In 1966, 25-year-old Charles Whitman, a former Marine, takes a stockpile of guns and ammunition to an observatory platform atop the 300-foot tower at the University of Texas. He starts targeting men and women meandering through the campus and soon opens fire. Over the course of an hour and a half, kills 14 people and wounds 31 others before he himself is killed by Austin police officer Houston McCoy.
In 2016, students are beginning to converge on the University of Texas to begin the new academic year. This year is different from previous years because students are allowed to be armed on campus by virtue of that controversial law passed last year by the Texas legislature. Students at every public university in Texas now have another existential fear with which to concern themselves — students 21-years-old and older who are properly licensed trekking around campus with a firearm.
The juxtaposition here is staggering.
For the men and women on the University of Texas campus when Whitman opened fire, August 1 is about an instance when their lives were in serious danger. As mentioned before, the 50th anniversary is one of those anniversaries to which we’ve culturally-affixed monumental importance. A 50th anniversary is a big deal. Jut ask Clif Drummond, who survived Charles Whitman’s 90-minute assault while he and a friend, Bob Higley, helped the wounded.
“I think it was a careless decision by whoever made it to not realize that it would be the 50th anniversary of the shooting.”
For the men and women who championed “Campus Carry” last year, August 1 is about their own success in fending off those with genuine concerns regarding the problems that “Campus Carry” will bring. Just ask state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-District 130, who is sick of hearing people bring up that “Campus Carry” goes into effect on an important anniversary of one of the state’s worst gun-related tragedies.
“I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We’ve been working on this for years, and for the implementation to fall on that day — that had never even crossed somebody’s mind. I’m not a young man, but it’s a long, long time since that happened, and I haven’t thought about it for a long time.”
Despite state Rep. Fletcher’s standoffish attitude toward the significance of August 1, 2016, the fact still remains that today is important, especially for those who were at the University of Texas during Charles Whitman’s rampage. Many of the men and women of the Texas legislature weren’t there. Many of them were barely children when it happened. But for people like Clif Drummond, and others who spent an hour and a half not knowing if they would live or die, the 50th anniversary of their horrifying ordeal also serves as the day when the Texas legislature, in all their infinite wisdom, effectively made college campuses in the state more dangerous.
As of August 1, 2016, students at Texas’ public universities can now work toward their college degrees with guns on their hips, 50 years to the day after 14 students were denied their college degrees by a deranged former Marine’s bullet.
Featured image by GuðsÞegn, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.