Mass shootings at schools are now a routine part of our lives, but every routine has a first. And for school shootings, it was at the University of Texas at Austin on Aug. 1, 1966.
Twenty-five-year-old Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the clocktower on campus and shot 43 people, killing 13. Texas Monthly’s oral history of the afternoon called it the “first mass murder in a public space.”
And, as the university’s alumni association publication reported Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of his rampage will be the day Texas’ campus carry bill goes into effect.
In a rundown of the current state of campus carry at the Austin campus, the university’s alumni association, the Texas Exes, pointed out the date’s irony: “On Aug. 1, 2016 — the 50th anniversary of the Charles Whitman UT Tower shooting — Senate Bill 11 will go into effect, making it legal for concealed handgun licensees to pack heat on Texas campuses. What exactly that will look like on the Forty Acres remains an open question, and one that has provoked intense emotions from all sides.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed Senate Bill 11 into law on June 13 and UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves established a working group to recommend solutions for how to implement the law on campus.
The tower is pictured above in an Associated Press photo from September 1999, shortly after it was reopened to the public following a rash of suicides in 1974.
Whitman killed his wife and mother before he went to campus. Shortly before lunchtime, he climbed up the stairs in the tower along with three rifles, two pistols, and a sawed-off shotgun, according to Texas Monthly.
He killed 13 people in 96 minutes.