High Noon at UT Austin

Samantha Shinn

It seemed like a normal Tuesday morning at the University of Texas in Austin, but September 28 was anything but a normal day for the students and faculty. Colton J. Tooley, 19, was a sophomore at UT and a Math Major. He was also a resident from South Austin and a strong student with much admiration from his professors.

That morning, Tooley ran through campus wearing a dark suit and a ski mask, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, and he fired six rounds on the sixth floor of the Perry Castaneda Library, one of the busiest undergraduate libraries on campus. No one was harmed in this random shooting rampage, because he did not have any intention of harming anyone, just to scare people. “He didn’t really want to hurt anyone…he had many opportunities to fatally hurt someone and he didn’t” says student Lindsi Ramirez. Tooley shot himself fatally after he fired the rounds.

The security measures taken by the university were very efficient and effective to keep all the students and faculty out of harm’s way. Minutes after the first gunshot was heard, UTPD sent out a campus wide alert through text message, email, and other campus digital media that was available; the alert informed people that there was a gunman running around campus and that he was in the PCL. They were encouraged to stay where they were and lock all the windows and doors. Classes were canceled until further notice. In order to perform secondary searches in every building, there were APD SWAT, UTPD, Travis County SO SWAT, DPS SWAT, and EOD explosive dog teams present. After setting up a perimeter around campus, they evacuated the students and faculty. Soon after, though, campus was reopened and normal schedule was resumed on Wednesday.

The timing of the shooting was very coincidental or ironic as some say, because the Texas Senate will soon to be in session, and one of the foremost topics of debate is the right for students to carry concealed handguns on campus and into classrooms. The bill failed in 2008 and 2009, but with this fresh new incident on everyone’s mind, it will be getting much more support than it did in the past. The bill states that no public university across the state of Texas can prohibit the students and faculty from carrying a concealed handgun if they are licensed to carry one. So far, Utah is the only state in the country that has passed this law.

However, should students really have the right to be armed at all times? When midterms or finals are going on, tensions are high and emotions run wild. Should a student with the pressure of college and classes be able to handle a weapon? “It would ironically make me feel less safe. I would not trust myself with a weapon, let alone my peers” said another student, Christina Ulsh. When asked the opinion of his thoughts on the bill, student Cody McCuiston said “I think that giving college students the right to carry concealed weapons on campus because of a school shooting is counterproductive. I think that would make it easier for situations like the UT shooting to occur.” This bill is not greatly supported within the student body, but it is very supported in the Texas legislation right now.

Due to the incredible safety precautions, no one except Tooley himself was hurt, and UT should be commended on their extensive safety measures. This was a very random act and a sad day for Tooley’s family and friends, because the motivation is still unclear and it is still undergoing an investigation.