Bill passed Legislature by 98-47 vote, now awaits governor's signature to become law
Sponsor: Bill allows college administrators to adopt rules on carrying concealed handguns
Survivors has asked lawmakers to "not use our tragedies to rationalize bad policies"
The Texas Legislature has voted to allow guns within buildings on public college campuses throughout the state.
Senate Bill 11, which the state House passed by a vote of 98-47 Sunday, will now head to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.
Julie Gavran, the western director of the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, said she fears accidents involving guns, gun thefts and suicides will increase, if Abbott makes the bill law.
She also believes that colleges will have to invest more money into hiring security officers and buying metal detectors for stadiums, money that will be taken away from education.
“The legislators were more concerned with (concealed handgun license) rights rather than the quality of research and education that the state provides,” she said in a statement. “This total disregard of the voice and concerns of the campus community is an insult to the State of Texas.”
Despite that much debate surrounding gun control has focused on mass shootings, state Rep. Allen Fletcher said such incidents were not the impetus behind the bill that he sponsored.
“I did not file this bill so that concealed handgun licensees could be heroes in mass-shooting situations,” he said. “Rather, I filed this bill to allow CHL holders to protect themselves in situations where the only two people involved are a law-abiding citizen & a criminal intent on doing them harm – a much more likely scenario than a mass-shooting event.”
He added, “Currently, a student, faculty member, or other adult with a concealed handgun license may carry their concealed handgun throughout a campus as long as they remain outside, but the moment they step foot into a building on campus they become criminals.”
He pointed out some key components of the law:
- The bill requires a university president to adopt rules and policies regarding carrying a concealed handgun on campus. The governing board may amend those policies with a ⅔ vote
- The university may adopt rules on policies regarding dorms and storage
- The bill preserves the private property rights of private universities
- The bill does not expand on who can obtain a concealed handgun license
- Any locations that are off-limits off campus, such as bars and hospitals, remain off-limits
- Open carry on campuses remains prohibited
Students for Concealed Carry applauded the legislation, saying that while school administrators retain the right to ban guns in specific buildings, removing the blanket prohibition “is an excellent first step.” The group also lauded the section of the law that reduced the penalty for inadvertently carrying guns in a prohibited area from a third-degree felony to a first-degree misdemeanor.
“We are looking forward to the next few years as concerned students lobby their university administrators and regents to not ban carry on individual campuses, as well as the 2017 Legislative Session where we will work to finish the job and ensure licensed, law abiding adults are not prohibited from defending themselves simply because they choose to pursue higher education,” the group said.
Gun-control advocates, predictably, had the opposite reaction.
Andy Pelosi, executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus said, “We do not view this bill as a win in any form and while it does provide some ability for college presidents to designate certain areas as free from concealed weapons, these designations are subject to a two-thirds approval vote by the Board of Regents, whose members are political appointees and if no agreement is reached, by review of the legislature. On top of that, college presidents will have to renew their requests for concealed weapons-free zones on a bi-annual basis, yet another roadblock placed by the gun lobby saturated legislature.”
Prior to the vote, Everytown for Gun Safety wrote an open letter to the Legislature, signed by survivors of campus shootings and the family members of victims, asking lawmakers to “not use our tragedies to rationalize bad policies.”
“We have replayed the horrible events our families experienced over and over in our heads, and we reject the notion that allowing concealed carry on campus makes colleges safer. For those who survived, it was the most intense, stressful, and chaotic situation ever experienced, and adding more guns to those situations would only have made them more dangerous for everyone,” the group’s statement said.
CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.