Special Report: Midland & Odessa College gearing up for campus carry

Special Report: Midland & Odessa College gearing up for campus carry
Odessa College Campus (Courtesy: Odessa College)
Odessa College Campus (Courtesy: Odessa College)

MIDLAND-ODESSA, TX (KWES) - Campus carry at four-year state schools and universities took effect this past August. But come this August, it goes into effect at two-year schools and junior colleges.

"I don't expect this to be a big deal when it happens August 1," said Richard McKee, Chief of Police at Midland College.

August 1, 2017, to be specific. That's the date campus carry will go into effect for two-year state schools and junior colleges, including Odessa and Midland College.

"I think August 1 will come and August 1 will go and business will be as usual," said Ken Zartner, Executive Director of Administration and Human Resources.

The law will allow licensed to carry gun owners to carry a concealed weapon on campus, except for some exclusion zones. It's already been in effect at four-year schools and universities but junior colleges had an extra year to prepare.

Midland College has their plan in place. It was approved by the board last month. McKee said they worked on it for more than a year.

"We had the benefit of seeing what the four-year colleges and universities did. Then we had some town hall meetings with the president of our college, got some input from our faculty, staff and students and kind of crafted it based on what some of the other universities were doing," said McKee.

One of those universities happened to be in our backyard: UTPB. They've seen a pretty seamless transition to campus carry this year. McKee says they took advantage of learning from their neighbors.

"We work closely with them. We kind of looked at what they did, how they did it, how they implemented it," said McKee.

That close bond shows up in Midland College's plan, which almost mirrors UTPB, when it comes to exclusion zones or places where you won't be able to legally carry a gun on campus.

Both ban them in childcare and daycare areas, counseling centers, the early college high schools and areas where high school students attend, research labs, ticketed sporting events and even student housing that has shared bedrooms.

"We will be doing some training for our faculty, staff and students over the summer to educate people on what exactly campus carry is. What you can and can't do," said McKee.

Meanwhile, Odessa College is in the final stages of their planning process, who also say they've been working more than a year.

Ken Zartner was part of the planning process. He says they started by educating themselves with campus carry, before getting input from students, faculty and the community.

"We've taken that feedback and developed a policy that is specific to our needs here at Odessa College. I think we've built something really well at this point," said Zartner.

Official details of their plan have yet to be released, but Zartner says they worked closely with Texas State University and their plan mirrors theirs. A look at their website shows similar exclusion zones to other schools, including the daycare areas, counseling centers and sporting events.

"Our goal is to make this a comfortable place for everybody who comes to campus and respect those who are licensed to carry," said Zartner.

Zartner adds that they will present the plan to the administrative team and board of trustees later this month.

Both schools acknowledge there will still be concerns from some, but say they feel they're adequately prepared and don't expect anything out of the ordinary.

"I think there will still be some concern. I still think there will be some uneasy feelings. But we feel we've developed a process and a policy to ease everybody's concerns," said Zartner.

"You know I think initially there was some concern because it was new. I think the universities have implemented it with no ill effects and I don't expect any problems when we implement it here August 1," said McKee.

Midland College's campus carry plan can be found here.

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