A new “Campus Carry” law is probably about to pass in Texas, allowing licensed gun-owners to carry their weapons in state university buildings.
The bill was introduced by Republican lawmakers, passed in both the House and Senate on Sunday (May 31), and will soon make its way to the desk (and pen, apparently) of Governor Greg Abott - a Republican known for his pro-gun stance.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the existing laws let “the 841,500 Texans with concealed handgun licenses carry their firearms onto university grounds.” The new law expands on that, by specifically allowing people “to take their handguns into dorms, classrooms, cafeterias and other public campus buildings" of public universities.
Only seven other states explicitly allow concealed weapons on college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: Wisconsin, Utah, Oregon, Mississippi, Kansas, Idaho, and Colorado. While 20 other states have an outright ban on carrying concealed weapons on campus, 23 states allow universities to make their own rules regarding guns on campus.
"As a student and a veteran, I appreciate the fact that I will be able to defend myself and my fellow students in the unlikely event that there is an active shooter at my university," the president and founder of Open Carry Texas, CJ Grisham, said in a statement. "This is common sense legislation that ensure[s] our students and faculties will now be ... safer having abolished a major gun-free, victim-spree zone."
Texas Democrats have been fighting the bill since its introduction, saying that allowing weapons on campus would only escalate dangerous situations like the one Grisham described, but the best they’ve been able to do is to add some loopholes that allow school presidents to create some very-limited “gun-free zones” on campus. Schools that do this would have to submit explanations to state lawmakers about why they were designating those areas “gun-free," which some Democrats pointed out could make schools that are dependent on state funding hesitant to take advantage of the loopholes.
“Many of these college presidents are going to be reluctant to put too many restrictions on their college campuses,” Democratic Representative Sylvester Turner told The Texas Tribune, “because … we may not give them the funds that they need.”
According to The Tribune, Representative Turner also said, “Texas has got to get past its obsession with guns and start placing its resources on our students and institutions. This should not be the banner headline from this legislative session.”
While opponents of the bill are worried, some "campus carry" supporters feel that the loopholes will actually make the new law irrelevant. The Students for Concealed Carry even said that they “would appreciate it the bill's authors and sponsors would quit confusing the issue by claiming a victory for our side. We don’t need to hide behind a gutted bill to save face. We'll try again in 2017."
Unless you’re in the military, you have to be at least 21 years old to get a handgun license in Texas, which could, according the Dallas Morning News, mean that “only a small fraction of college students would be eligible for campus carry” anyway.
William McRaven, the University of Texas System Chancellor, has frequently spoken out against the bill. He said in a written statement, "It is helpful that the bill was amended to allow our campus presidents to consult with students, faculty and staff to develop rules and regulations that will govern the carrying of concealed handguns on campuses."
“I pledge to our students, faculty, staff, patients and their families,” he added “... that, as UT System leaders, we will do everything in our power to maintain safe and secure campuses.”
Ironically, this news comes just one day before the first-annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
On June 2nd, 2015, Sixty US Mayors and a long list of celebrities (including Julianne Moore, Sarah Silverman, Michael Stipe, Patti Smith, Alyssa Milano, Padma Lakshmi, John Hodgman, Amanda Peet, Perez Hilton, and many more) have pledged to wear orange to call attention to the movement to end gun violence in the US.
MTV is also joining in, by changing our logo orange for the day.