Two widely controversial bills were introduced into the Texas State Senate and House of Representatives that would approve handgun-carry on Texas college campuses this past March. Private institutions would have the option to opt out of the provision. These two bills have not passed yet, but have a good chance of becoming laws.
The existing law relating to “campus carry” allows for the concealed carry of handguns onto university grounds, according to The Dallas Morning News. The new legislation would extend that privilege into most university buildings, such as dorms, classrooms and cafeterias.
The senate bill was authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican representative from Granbury, Texas, and has moved onto the House of Representatives.
The house bill was authored by Rep. Allen Fletcher, a Republican representative from Tomball, has been filed and given to the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee within the house. There has not been a vote on the bill from the Homeland Security & Public Safety yet.
Sen. Birdwell argued that the current restrictions on concealed license carriers impede Second Amendment rights, and that his bill is about upholding constitutional rights.
“Rights that are granted from God are ours to protect,” said Birdwell last month.
When Rep. Fletcher, the author of the house bill, told the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee (who will be voting on the bill before it can be taken to the house for a vote) that students who are traveling to campus should be able to protect themselves.
“Most people who study or work on campus don’t live there. They drive, they walk or take public transportation from somewhere else and may have to travel through less than safe areas,” Fletcher told the committee. “Licensed individuals should be able to protect themselves during that commute.”
The senate bill, which has garnered the most attention, is widely controversial among public universities. One of its most ardent opponents is University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven, who is a retired U.S. Navy admiral. He sent a letter to legislators, saying the bill would make campuses “less safe”.
“I continue to remain apprehensive about the effects of this legislation on UT System institutions and our students, staff, patients and visitors,” McRaven said in a statement to TIME. “I continue to hear from students, parents, staff and faculty about their uneasiness related to this legislation. In light of this, it is my responsibility to continue to express our concerns as the senate bill goes to the house and the house bill goes through the process.”
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, on the other hand, supports the bill, has said he isn’t concerned about allowing handguns on campus. He says he trusts teachers and students “to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the University as they do at home.”
Many parents, students, and community members have voiced their concerns about what a “campus carry” law like these would do to Texas universities.
“I just don’t need guns and 19-year-olds and alcohol all getting together on our campuses,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said last week.
Safety has been the number one concern raised, especially because the bill will apply to campus areas such as residence halls, where it could be easy to get ahold of a gun, despite if a student has a license. Universities have also been concerned about the amount of time and resources this bill will take, and how that could affect their campuses.
“It’s too early to know,” said Ed Reynolds, deputy police chief at the University of North Texas.
One thing’s for sure, though: there is a high possibility of the senate bill passing, as the House of Representatives holds a Republican majority, most of whom favor “campus carry”. Between the strong backing within the house and Governor Greg Abbott’s support, college students and staff holding guns could become a reality in Texas.