Students in Texas can now carry concealed handguns to their campuses after a new law has come into effect in the US state. While supporters of the law argue that the measure is vital for self-defence purposes, critics fear it could lead to more violence on campuses.

The new law came into effect on the 50th anniversary of the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas campus in Austin. The incident claimed 14 lives after former Marine Charles Whitman went on the rampage killing more than 40 unarmed people.

Texas is now the eighth US state which legally allows students to carry guns to their campuses. The law is applicable to students aged 21 and more, who have permit for their handguns. Although students will be allowed to carry their guns inside classrooms, sports arenas and chemical labs are among the areas that are not covered by the law. Private schools and two-year community colleges in Texas have also been excluded from the law until 2017, the BBC reported.

Academics and higher education officials in the state as well as many students have expressed concern over the new move, saying the law may prove detrimental to the interests of students and may also discourage them from joining colleges in the state. They argue that the law could hamper free exchange of ideas among students as those with guns may end up suppressing others' voices.

Gun law
New Texas gun law that came into effect on 1 August allows students aged 21 and more to carry licensed handguns to college campusesReuters

However, Texan Republicans argue that the law could prevent mass shooting incidents like the one in Austin as shooters have mostly targeted "gun-free zones". They say university campuses and cinemas have been vulnerable areas because gunmen are least likely to be counter-attacked at these places.

The new law comes into effect at a time when the US has been forced to rethink its gun control laws after a spate of shooting incidents in the recent past. Most of the incidents, many of which turned fatal, involved toddlers or children who accidentally got access to guns and shot either themselves or others.