UTMB (courtesy decodedscience.com)

Texas lawmakers recently enacted “campus carry” for state-run colleges and universities. Critics of SB 11 claim it has more holes than a golf course; schools and universities are free to force gun owners to store their guns at “high risk” facilities (e.g., dormitories), and ban guns entirely from “higher risk” parts of their domain (e.g., hospitals). William McRaven, Chancellor of the University of Texas Systems, recently sent a memo to the 16 Presidents within the system on the new firearms-related regime [click here for a pdf]. The former Navy Admiral and anti-campus carry crusader included this tidbit in his missive, which reveals and reflects his view of the new law . . .

We also know that laboratories at many of our institutions conduct life-saving research dealing with dangerous viruses and other select agents, and these may be places where as a matter of policy we restrict concealed weapons.

Help me out with the thinking here . . .

If these research labs are potential terrorist targets – and I’m thinking they are – why aren’t they protected by on-site armed guards? And if they’re not protected that way – and I’m thinking they’re not – what’s to stop someone with a gun coming into the lab and doing something nefarious? You know; before the campus police can rally to their defense.

Shouldn’t these higher security areas be places where the campus allows — maybe even encourages — concealed carry as a cheap and effective force multiplier/defense against criminal or terrorist attack?

34 Responses to University of Texas System to Ban Guns in Research Labs?

  1. If you have a Biosafety level 3 or level 4 installation – you certainly don’t want to have people with guns walking around the lab. That is the WORKAROUND, and relies on “all the guys inside the fence are good guys”. Which we know it isn’t true.

    The solution is to provide an appropriate security level to the facility – armed guards, sensors, etc. This is akin, in my mind, to those universities that have a “pet reactor” on campus – where is the security there ?

    You CANNOT have it both ways in research – have your reactor, have your biohazard research lab . . . but not to provide security because “it is too expensive”. If you need it, you have to PAY for it. Otherwise – close it.

    • I’m guessing level 3 and 4 biosafety means labs dealing with things like the 1918 influenza strain that killed 3 – 4% of the world’s population. When dealing with something that deadly, contagious, and airborne I would expect it to be a gun free zone with properly armed security surrounding it. A nd in that situation could end up with the nd being the least lethal consequence from someone’s negligence and I would guess that’s statistically more likely than either a terrorist attack or a nut ball trying to release something.

      • When dealing with something that deadly, contagious, and airborne I would expect it to be a gun free zone with properly armed security surrounding it.

        ^ This!!!!!

        Such a laboratory should have a core containment area that is always locked and isolated from an outer containment area that is also always locked. And then armed security (real security I might add) must be stationed outside that. In the event of an attack, efforts of the attackers to breach the outer containment area would reveal their clear intentions and allow ample time for a human monitor (inside the core containment area) to lock down the core containment area well before the attackers breached the outer containment area.

        Multiple layers of security and all that …

        Speaking of multiple layers of security, do the universities perform regular, extensive psychological and drug screenings on ALL people who have access to the core containment area?

        • Dude, we’re dealing with mostly liberal university admins here. Given ANY possibility of a loophole, it will take all of two minutes before the presence of foot fungus on some aging hippie’s Birkenstocks is grounds to ban guns from some lab for “security reasons.”

          The stuff you’re talking about shouldn’t be housed in the midst of 50,000 college kids in the middle of a city anyway. If the Manhattan Project wants to limit concealed carry inside some reactor core, it’s really a different issue altogether.

    • You don’t even want to fart in a Racal environmental suit much less carry. Worse still in the yellow “mobile” suit.

      Ray

      • Yes! And try drawing your pistol in a bio suit! An ND that potentially releases hazardous material and infects people is not so far fetched

    • Sorry, but I don’t really “get it”. So, you have this place with some really dangerous stuff in it. E.g., like the CDC warehouse where vials of smallpox virus was stored without security. OK, so you know there is really dangerous stuff in there; and, you let anyone in there who has not been thoroughly vetted? Are the people responsible for such places crazy?

      OK, so often we are dealing with a university setting where we have lots of students, undergrads and grads. These people don’t have a lot of history; it shouldn’t be that expensive to run a background check on them. The graduate students are over 21 (mostly) so they can carry legally.

      Instead of letting the people who have to have hands-on access to this stuff defend the stuff and themselves, we are supposed to buy into the idea of hiring guards. There are a couple kinds of guards. For a pretty high price we could bet vets who would fight to defend this stuff the way they fought to defend their country. Will administrators want to pay for that?

      Or, will the administrators higher the lowest bidder who will – of course – pay minimum wage? How good will the background checks on these minimum wage workers be? They will – undoubtedly – have access to the labs where this dangerous stuff is kept. How confident can we be that an infiltrator won’t be able to get a job with the security contractor and spirit away the dangerous stuff when no students are around to question them?

      From my viewpoint, I’d rather put my money on the kids.

  2. My two cents is that guns should only be restricted for real material reason. Things like chemicals that react poorly to metals or extreme magnetic fields like you’d find around MRIs.

    • But you could continue to permit Glock 7s, which don’t show on X rays because they’re ceramic (and damned expensive, too).

  3. Former Admiral William McRaven was promoted to the rank by BARAK HUSSIAN OBUMER (all you need to know).

  4. I completely agree that there should be very tight security in some of these dangerous research facilities. Currently I believe security is lacking.

    Depending on the lab, this is actually one area where I don’t disagree with having a gun free zone. Chemicals, fumes, magnetic fields, biohazards….all are things that are dangerous to guns, or at the very least are a very bad idea to put a bullet through.

    I have a problem with this lab policy being a blanket statement. Crash test lab=no concerns: Mri or very high level biohazard lab=problem, maybe.

    I wonder if any lab grants have been provided to their engineering or physics labs by a gun maker……

    • I absolutely agree on the medical lab part. I imagine that if you went back a few hundred years, maybe not to when the first gun was made but perhaps when the millionth gun was made, and compared death to contagion to death by gun contagion death would probably dwarf gun death many times over even using bloomberg numbers. And if there are any labs that do something that could make a gun fire without someone touching it I wouldn’t advise guns there either (perhaps some lab doing experiments in physics or magnetics like you mentioned) not that I know of anything that could do that, but they did start up that thing that could but probably wouldn’t destroy the earth by creating a black hole. Who made that call?

      • Through at least the US Civil War, armies typically lost more men from disease than enemy action, absolutely right. The development of the germ theory and modern hygeine started to change that.

        I can see some mechanisms which could cause rounds to cook off, e.g. strong and fast-oscillating magnetic fields could heat up cases. That’s basically how an induction furnace works. But areas with fields like that are usually well marked because they can play holy hob with medical devices like pacemakers, implants, etx. at muck lower fields than you’d need to seriously heat up a bullet case.

        Re the black hole at CERN eating tge world thing, that’s always been nonsense. Natural events such as cosmic rays can have far higher energies than the biggest accelerator we have, and have been hitting the earth for billions of years.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a death ray to tune up. If we’re lucky, today we’ll get to “mild sunburn”…

        • Along those lines, recall that the Gatling gun was invented by a doctor. His idea was that if you could provide a company’s worth of firepower with one crew-served weapon, you’d only have 6 guys out marching around and maybe catching dysentery and yellow fever instead of 100. You would reduce your prime source of casualties (disease, not combat wounds), by reducing the number of troops in the field.

  5. I think these high risk lab areas may be targets, but security at the door would be my preferred solution if I owned a PRIVATE facility of this type. And public institutions probably should have armed security if they don’t allow them. Any other type of lab or building I really wouldn’t have an issue.

    I am no expert on this type of research, but I PERSONALLY would not want to have to do work, maybe change clothes(and put on that suit) and worry about my gun.

  6. We also know that laboratories at many of our institutions conduct life-saving research dealing with dangerous viruses and other select agents, and these may be places where as a matter of policy we restrict concealed weapons.
    Sounds like an ISIS paradise target to me.
    “Abdul, if I shoot every infidel and steal the deadly virus to kill even more of the unbelievers; will that mean I will get the 72 virgins on golden couches?”. “Yes Akbar, I can assure you a golden paradise.”
    We now know where the religion of peace will strike in the future.

  7. Honestly, I’m OK with this concept. I’m not going to root through the bill and speak about the execution. Is it poorly veiled a dig at gun culture? Yeah. Thank you, lawmakers, so classy*.

    But, end of the day, the labs are special workplaces. If the management wants to make rules like no guns, no food, no open-toed-shoes, no pets, no photography, no synthetic fibers, no jewelry; I think fundamentally it’s legitimately their call to do so. Why are lawmakers instead of deans and profs making the rule in this case? Bleh, it’s a drag, but it doesn’t matter to me, they’re in a position to do so. We can pick apart individual rules, but I wouldn’t do that. I think in a workplace with hazards and sensitive stuff going on, the body of rules is more than the sum of its parts.

    *sarcastic

  8. This sounds like an open invitation to terrorists. The safety of concealed carry against terrorists is their knowledge that someone might be carrying and a public statement forbidding it invite them in.

  9. Shouldn’t these higher security areas be places where the campus allows — maybe even encourages — concealed carry as a cheap and effective force multiplier/defense against criminal or terrorist attack?

    I think he’s making the case that these places need armed security, probably paid. If he pulls this stuff, I think gun owners should call his bluff and demand that those sensitive places get armed guards.

  10. They will restrict it in the labs because being in such a place with out the proper credentials would be against the rules, so if a terrorist wanted to get access to the labs he would first have to enlist as a student, and eventually take whatever course(s) is needed to get into the lab. Now, if they allowed carrying of guns into those areas, once the would be terrorist enrolls in said classes, pays his tuition, takes the required classes to get access there, it would then be open season for him if they allowed him to legally carry his gun in there!! I thought it was kinda obvious….

  11. I think it makes sense in some kinds of research facilities to have guns not allowed, depending on what kind of equipment is around. If the activity in the lab would make guns a hazard, either because of moving machinery, strong magnets, or something like that, I don’t see a problem with restricting gun use. It’s like working in a factory setting, you’re required to keep your hair tied back, no open toed shoes, etc. If the environment could cause a gun to become a safety issue on its own, then restrictions make sense to me. Otherwise, they have no business banning guns.

  12. Depending on what is going on in a specific lab, carrying a firearm does in fact present an unacceptable risk. An ND causing a break in bio-hazard containment, or near flammable/explosive materials, or in environments where people would routinely have to remove the firearm to conduct their work (thereby leaving the gun unattended) would be unacceptable risks.

    That being said, if he is so concerned about safety, he should probably go talk to his EHS folks a bit more often. University labs are notoriously lax in terms of ensuring proper safety precautions are adhered to. The University turns a blind eye, and the professors are under so much pressure to publish that safety takes a back seat. Then you end up with stuff like this:

    http://www.nature.com/news/chemist-reaches-agreement-with-prosecutors-over-lab-death-1.15444

    That is not an isolated incident, just the most publicized to date. And every single research university in the country has the exact same problem. So sure, there are definitely some places where carrying is totally inappropriate, but lets not pretend lab safety is the primary concern here. No when you expose students to dangerous or potentially fatal work environments on a daily basis because you don’t want to cough up the funds to do things properly.

  13. Actually, RF, I think it’s the excuse that he doesn’t want an AD to cause the Andromeda strain.

    Actually, that’s not an unreasonable position for biohazard 3 or 4 facilities. But in those types of research zones have restrictions that go far beyond keeping the guns away.

  14. As a HazMat chemist, there is no way on earth I would carry inside a BSL 3 or 4.

    Insane is a word that comes to mind.

    All the best, James

  15. Does anyone have an email address for McRaven? I’d like to forward the link to this to him. Perhaps if we flood his email box……….Oh well it was a nice thought.

  16. I’m at University of North Texas in Denton, at school for engineering, and we received an email from the school administrators the day Campus Carry passed the Texas Legislature saying, ”

    June 2, 2015
    Dear UNT community members,
    As you know, Texas’ Legislature has passed new legislation that will allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns on campus.
    This new legislation includes the benefit of exercising local control, and we will use that control to continue to do everything we can to provide a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.
    While passage of the law is not what we had hoped for, we are now reviewing the legislation thoroughly to ensure that we fully understand our latitude in developing regulations for carrying concealed handguns on campus.
    We will spend our time prior to Fall 2016 planning our implementation response, and consulting with all faculty, staff and students who have interest in or have raised concerns about this legislation.
    I also will consult extensively with other campus leaders and police groups in Texas to better understand the additional costs and training associated with this bill. And, I will ask our police department and other units on campus to provide training and guidance to our community to help them understand how to personally respond in this new environment.
    In the coming year, we will conduct a thorough and thoughtful process, and I assure all of our students and their families, faculty and staff members, and visitors that we remain committed to providing the best educational experience in Texas in a safe campus community.
    UNT Proud,
    Neal Smatresk”

    Read between the lines and it’s clear they are going to try to ban firearms anywhere they think they can get away with it. Here at the engineering campus, Discovery Park, we have labs with tanks of acetylene, clean-rooms, a multi-million dollar electron microscope, laser labs, etc. and even though that only accounts for about 2% of the campus, I bet they’ll claim that allowing campus carry at Discovery Park would endanger those resources and have the whole campus designated a GFZ.

    We have 8-ft fences with razorwire surrounding the perimeter and a guardshack, but the security posted there isn’t armed, unless they have it stored in their little booth, and we aren’t required to stop there unless we need a temporary pass, so its not like they are inspecting the contents of our vehicles or anything, so although it maintains perhaps the appearance of security, there is little to be found here.

  17. The people working inside Level 3 & 4 are scientists, not operators. I’m all for concealed carry but security inside of these areas is best left to people who do it professionally.

  18. They might ban guns due to the type research being conducted and the potential for contamination, etc, which I can understand if it comes from a logical, scientific standpoint. However, they should have armed guards.

  19. McRaven is a remarkable guy, but my respect for him plummeted once he went on his anti-gun crusade.

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