On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman ascended the University of Texas clock tower here with a trunk full of weapons and unleashed 96 minutes of terror that effectively became a template for mass shootings and aroused in the public a new sensitivity to the threat of violence in public spaces, according to the New York Times.
Mr. Whitman, a 25-year-old student, Eagle Scout and Marine veteran, killed a receptionist and two members of a visiting family inside the tower. He then went onto the observation deck and began spraying sniper fire, turning a tranquil summertime campus into a scene of chaos and death.
In the half-century since, Mr. Whitman’s savagery has been echoed in mass shootings on other university campuses and at workplaces, elementary schools, post offices, movie theaters and nightclubs. And what seemed unthinkable in 1966 was re-enacted with alarming repetition in places like Columbine High School in Colorado; Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.; and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
As the University of Texas marks one of the bloodiest campus shootings in United States history, it will do so on the day that it is newly complying with a state law permitting concealed firearms inside university buildings, a measure enacted in 2015 by the Legislature in a victory for gun rights proponents.
Legislative supporters of the law said it was needed to protect students from the kind of violence that has taken place at the University of Texas and other schools.
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