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Some Texas Grad Students Hold Bar Conferences to Avoid Guns

AUSTIN, Texas — A 2016 Texas law that allows concealed handguns on college campuses has prompted some graduate students to move their student conferences to bars, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Several University of Texas at Austin graduate students made the move amid safety concerns, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Mark Sheridan, who’s also an English doctoral student, said he moved his office hours to a bar in the university student center. Texas law bans firearms in venues that primarily serve alcohol.

Twice a week, in the Cactus Cafe & Bar, Sheridan meets with students in his spring class, Rhetoric of U.S. Exceptionalism.

“If I want to work at a place that bans guns,” Sheridan said recently, “the bar seems like the safest bet for me.”

Graduate students at the university share offices and cannot bar guns from those rooms, though faculty can keep guns out of their offices.

University leaders say graduate students have long been permitted to hold office hours off campus. “The university did not track it then, and that did not change with the new law,” university spokesman J.B. Bird said.

Texas has allowed concealed carry since 1995, but kept college campuses gun-free until last August.

“You’re usurping the intent of the Legislature. You are a graduate teaching assistant, an employee of the state, and your work should be performed … on state property,” said Michael Newbern, a spokesman for Students for Concealed Carry.

A Houston Chronicle review of university records plus interviews found three firearm discharges on public college campuses, in the first six months of the law. The incidents were at the University of Houston, Tarleton State and Texas Tech.

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