Senate Votes to Allow Guns in Cars on College Campuses

Legislators and journalists alike declared the concealed carry on campus movement dead. But with new legislation in both chambers, is there a chance gun owners may get to carry to class?

Legislature Considers New Campus Carry Bills

Updated May 6 at 3:25 p.m.

Though it’s not what proponents wanted, restrictions on firearms at Texas colleges might be loosened this legislative session. The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday, April 30, that would allow students to keep licensed handguns in their cars on college campuses. Institutions of higher education would not be able to opt out of the law.

The bill expands where Texans can carry firearms, but legislators and activists who have advocated for more permissive concealed carry laws since 2009 may come away from this session disappointed.

“This is a God-given, constitutional right,” Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) told the Texas Tribune. “We’re going to keep fighting for it, because it’s worth it.”

Earlier in the session, Birdwell filed legislation that would allow concealed handgun permit holders to carry firearms into college and university buildings. His bill has yet to be heard in committee and, according to criminal justice chair Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), will not be heard. Instead, the limited version by Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) was approved in a 27-4 vote, meaning eight Democrats joined 19 Republicans in voting for the measure.

That leaves some on the right unsatisfied. Conservative commentator David Jennings called Hegar’s bill “lipstick on a pig.” Jennings points to House Bill 972 by state Rep. Allan Fletcher (R-Cypress) as a “flawed” but more palatable alternative. Fletcher’s bill, which passed the House Monday, would remove the current firearms ban on public college campuses, but would still allow schools to opt out, a concession that doesn’t sit well with conservatives like Jennings.

“Where have all the Republicans gone?” Jennings wrote Wednesday.

Many Democrats see any effort to allow guns on campus as unacceptable. In the debate over Hegar’s bill Wednesday, Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) said that “given today’s climate and the rise of crime on our campuses, the last thing we need to do is pass a bill like this.”

“It’s just another variation of guns on campus—in a parking lot this year, and in buildings next time,” said Rodriguez.

While legislators generally align with their party’s view on the issue—and Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats at the capitol—concealed carry legislation may depend on which faction shows a more united front.

A February 2013 poll by the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin found that while 74 percent of Republicans support concealed carry on campus and 73 percent of Democrats oppose it, the GOP is far more split between “strongly support” and “somewhat support” than Democrats are in their opposition. The strongest single group supporting campus carry are self-identified Tea Party conservatives.

“Democratic opposition is very strong and very intense,” Texas Politics Project director Jim Henson told the Alcalde. Henson notes that while the majority of lawmakers might vote for either or both of the bills, the measures may be more important to their enemies than to their friends..

Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes takes no position on campus-carry legislation.

Photo courtesy gak via Flickr Creative Commons.


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