On Monday, the University of Texas held its first memorial of a mass shooting 50 years ago that left 16 people dead, with a survivor of the massacre leading a procession across the field where she was hit by the sniper and her unborn child was killed.
Claire Wilson James walked past the spot where, at age 18, she spent nearly 90 minutes on the pavement in the hot sun next to her slain boyfriend. In 1966, Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old former Marine brought a cache of weapons to the tower’s observation deck, about 250 feet (76 meters) in the air, shooting innocent people for blocks.
Shooting survivors banded together a few years ago and pushed for the memorial.
For the memorial, the university stopped the clock in the tower at 11:48 a.m., the time Whitman began his sniper attack.
The 50th anniversary coincides with the start of a new law in Texas that allows concealed handgun license holders (over 21) to bring pistols into more places on the campuses of public colleges in the state, including classrooms.
Lawmakers who pushed for the “campus carry” law say it could prevent another mass shooting. With a recent uptick in mass shootings, a number of which have happened on college campuses, proponents of the law say that an armed student body might be able to prevent such incidents.
The law was was pushed through by Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott and a majority in the Republican-led state Legislature. The law does offer some power to university presidents to regulate concealed carry on their campuses, but that power is limited. By the letter of the law any rules or regulations instituted by the university may not “generally prohibit” license holders to carry their concealed firearms on campus.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea! I’ve replayed that day in my mind over and over, I would have done anything for a gun, anything to save my friends. These students are Americans who are trying to build productive lives, and they’ve become easy targets. Aren’t these the very people the 2nd Amendment was mean’t protect?”, said a 1966 survivor who wished to remain anonymous.