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50 Years After 'First Mass Shooting,' a New Law in Texas

Charles Whitman's rampage still echoes today
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2016 5:19 AM CDT
50 Years After '1st Mass Shooting,' Campus Carry Comes to Texas
In this Aug. 1, 1966, photo, smoke rises from Whitman's gun as he fires from the tower of the University of Texas administration building in Austin, Texas.   (AP Photo/File)

It's now referred to as "America's first mass shooting," and those who remember it say it certainly felt like the start of something new, strange, and horrible when Charles Whitman started shooting people at random from the University of Texas clock tower on Aug. 1, 1966. In a coincidence that some find chilling, Monday is not only the 50th anniversary of Whitman's rampage, which killed 17 people, but also the day the state's "campus carry" law comes into effect, allowing people to carry concealed handguns at public universities across Texas. A roundup of coverage:

  • The AP answers some questions about the new law, including details on what parts of campuses guns will be allowed in—and on why it was so controversial.

  • Claire Wilson James was eight months pregnant when Whitman—who received a Sharpshooter Badge in the Marines—shot her in the belly from the tower, killing her unborn son. He also killed her boyfriend, Tom Eckman. She talks to the Austin American-Statesman about why she opposes the new law. She recalls that as the rampage continued, Austinites were urged to bring their guns to campus to try to stop him—but that "only made it worse."
  • The university's Daily Texan paper looks at the claim, controversial to this day, that Whitman's behavior may have been influenced by his brain tumor.
  • The Washington Post looks at the arguments on both sides of the "campus carry" movement. Out of 15 states to look at the issue last year, Texas was the only one that ended up passing a law legalizing it.
  • The AP has made a version of its original 1966 story on the mass shooting available.
  • The Guardian speaks to a former newscaster who found himself covering a new kind of horror and to Gary Lavergne, the university's director of admissions research and the author of two books on the rampage. He recalls that in 1966, his father said: "That nut is showing everybody what's possible and we're going to see a lot more of this." "I'll never forget the way he said that," Lavergne says. "And I'll be danged if he wasn't right."
(Read more Texas stories.)

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