Bill allowing concealed handguns on college campuses draws blanks

Posted Wednesday, May. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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One of the biggest gun bills this session — allowing students with concealed handgun licenses to carry their firearms on college campuses and in their classes — appeared to die quietly Wednesday.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said his bill essentially was held hostage by Democrats.

The measure, known as “campus carry” or House Bill 972, would have let licensed students carry their concealed weapons on college campuses unless their schools opted out of letting guns in the classrooms.

“At this point, the clock is ticking and the prospects don’t get better over time,” said Birdwell, who was carrying the bill in the Senate. “I would prefer it wasn’t blocked, but it is.”

Opponents have long maintained that allowing concealed firearms on school property would make college campuses more dangerous and actually create a culture of fear. And if there was an incident, law enforcers might have a hard time determining who was a “shooter” and who was simply defending him or herself.

“The Texas Legislature has failed to address the real issue here — universal background checks — and instead has focused on a dangerous ideological agenda that no one wants except for gun sellers,” said John Woods, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin who attended Virginia Tech and lost his girlfriend in the 2007 shooting there that claimed 33 lives.

“I have owned guns before, and I support the Second Amendment, but putting guns in classrooms is crazy — and it's something that is opposed by all of the survivors of Virginia Tech.”

Birdwell said this bill is a simple issue of protecting Texans’ constitutional rights.

The version left dying Wednesday without enough support to bring it to the floor for a vote is a more lenient version than what Birdwell first proposed, since it lets college officials to choose to opt out of the bill.

But several Democrats in the Senate were blocking the bill even though they have let other gun-related legislation pass through the chamber.

Birdwell said he was two votes short on Tuesday and he was six votes shy of bringing the measure to the floor by Wednesday.

Although the measure could perhaps be added as an amendment to another bill, Birdwell said he promised his colleagues that was something he wouldn’t do.

“I gave my word I wouldn’t do that so if it does (get added as an amendment), someone else will have to do that,” he said.

If Gov. Rick Perry calls a special session for any reason — as rumors running rampant through the Capitol suggest he might — the issue could come up again, and possible face easier passage, if the governor adds campus carry to the list of measures that could be considered, Birdwell said. Perry has not indicated whether or not he will call a special session.

Other gun measures

Even though campus carry appeared to die Wednesday, some other gun measures did not.

The Texas Senate passed House Bill 1009, which allows armed school marshals to be present at Texas schools.

These marshals would “prevent or abate the commission of an offense in the event of a life-threatening situation that occurs on school premises,” according to the bill analysis. “School marshals would be required to successfully complete a rigorous training course administered by the Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education and required to be certified by TCLEOSE to be eligible for appointment.”

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, carried this bill through the Senate and promised to not use the bill as a way to backdoor the campus carry legislation through the Senate.

Earlier in the session, a bill dropping the amount of training Texans needed to gain or renew a concealed handgun license was dropped to around six hours, rather than the current 10 to 15 hours needed. This measure has already been sent to the governor for consideration.

And the state Senate on Wednesday also approved a measure that would eliminate requirements for concealed handgun holders to “demonstrate handgun proficiency” by taking a continuing education course to renew the license. That measure also has been sent to Perry for consideration.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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