May 30, 2015
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(ANTIMEDIA) Texas lawmakers will now hash out their differences in a specially convened committee over “campus carry” legislation, which would require public universities to allow concealed handguns on university campuses. The same last minute additions that allowed the bill to squeak by in the Texas House just before midnight on Tuesday caused the bill’s Senate author to request the meeting in hopes of saving the hotly-contested legislation.
Originally intended to ensure law-abiding citizens not have their right to self-defense nullified on college campuses, SB 11 was weighted down with over 100 amendments, used as a delay tactic by opponents in the House who hoped to miss the midnight deadline. Most of these were dropped with minutes to spare, but what did pass— campus “gun-free” zones, a ban on concealed weapons in health facilities, and especially the requirement for private schools to adhere to the law—are now matters of contention.
Opponents of the bill have expressed deep concerns for campus safety. As University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven said in a letter to legislators early this year, guns on campuses “will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”
Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp does not have any issues with licensed firearms present on campus and told lawmakers the issue “does not raise safety concerns” for him.
Rep Allen Fletcher, who sponsored the House bill, agrees. “The idea that this bill will result in any increase in violence is unfounded,” he said. “Campuses are not crime-free zones,” and so the ability to provide for self-defense is critical, he has explained.
But what the bill’s author, Sen Brian Birdwell, found objectionable enough to warrant discussion in a special committee was the stipulation that private schools must also follow the law. “I am duty-bound to protect Second Amendment rights parallel to private property rights. We must protect most private property rights equally, and not protect one or the other,” he said.
This exact quandary presented a chance for opponents to kill the legislation altogether. Rep Trey Martinez Fischer has been a vocal adversary of campus carry, and after the House addition, he said, “Tomorrow morning there are going to be a number of powerful people — maybe alumni, donors, board members — who are going to say we better get sensible, practical and realistic about our gun policies in the state of Texas.”
If lawmakers can reach a compromise before the legislative session ends on June 1, Texas will join Utah, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado, Kansas, and Idaho in allowing concealed carry on university campuses. Eight other states are considering similar proposals, including Arkansas, where it is already legal for faculty.
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