A professor at the University of Texas at Austin made headlines last week after he left his position due to his opposition to a recently-passed Texas law allowing students to carry concealed weapons in class. The professor cited his personal safety as a concern, but now a student gun rights group is accusing him of being a “false martyr.”
Hamermesh, a semi-retired professor emeritus for UT, only taught a single class per year, a massive introductory economics class that could have close to 500 students. Last week, he announced that he’s leaving to teach at the University of Sydney in Australia. Hamermesh blames a Texas law passed earlier this year which allows students with concealed carry permits to bring their guns into college classrooms and dormitories. Hundreds of professors have opposed the new law, but Hamermesh has gone a step further by quitting and blaming the law for his departure.
Over the weekend, the group Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) took issue with Hamermesh’s resignation, claiming his reason for quitting doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
Contrary to his claim, SCC argues, Hamermesh’s large class does not place him at a particularly significant risk of facing armed students. The class, which covers introductory microeconomics, is targeted at freshmen. That means the vast majority of Hamermesh’s students are under 20 years old; in his own resignation letter he describes his classes as “groups of 18-year-olds.”
The problem? 18-year-olds aren’t allowed to obtain concealed carry permits. Under Texas law, such permits are only allowed for those aged 21 or older.
“Why is Professor Hamermesh worried that allowing [concealed handgun license] holders to carry guns on campus will increase his chances of being shot by students who are too young to obtain a CHL?” Antonia Okafor, SCC’s Southwest director, asked in a statement. The group also suggested that his ability to quickly take up an alternative post at the University of Sydney on the other side of the world suggests that, rather than being pushed out by the new law, he “was on his way out anyway.”
Hamermesh rejected the group’s argument regarding his freshman-dominated class, though he admitted the majority of his students were below 21.
“That’s true, but there’s still a hundred who are 21 and over,” Hamermesh told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And even if there were only one, this increases the chances of that one carrying the gun around, getting upset in my office, and pulling the gun on me.”
Hamermesh also strongly rejected any insinuation that his departure was simply seized upon by anti-gun activists who “needed martyr.”
“That implies I was put up to doing this,” he said. “This is both wrong and insulting, since it implies I’m being manipulated.”
Hamermesh did admit, though, that he was already strongly considering leaving UT before the gun debate erupted.
“I’m 72. I don’t need the money that much. I love traveling,” he said. “This was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Ultimately, Hamermesh was highly dismissive towards SCC’s criticisms.
“It’s just absolutely wrong in so many accounts.”
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