Proposed legislation now moving through the Texas Senate could allow individuals to carry firearms on local college campuses.
House Bill 927 was approved by the House in early May and was voted out of the Senate’s criminal justice committee this week on a 4-3 vote, setting the stage for a vote by the full Senate soon.
“As a retired Houston police officer, I know that officers cannot be everywhere at all times. Campus police cannot be in every classroom or academic building,” said state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball, who filed the bill in the House. “That is why I strongly support the right of properly licensed citizens to carry on college campuses.”
The House bill would allow those licensed in Texas to have concealed handguns to carry their weapons on campus, including inside buildings and classrooms.
Currently, Texas is one of 21 states that does not permit individuals to carry concealed firearms on college campuses, even with a concealed handgun license.
While the bill, in its current form, would repeal the state’s blanket ban on concealed weapons at colleges, public institutions of higher education would have the ability to “opt out” by adopting written rules or regulations prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns on premises after consulting with students, staff, faculty and law enforcement.
At Central Texas College, that decision would fall into the hands of the college’s seven-member board of trustees.
“I believe it’s called a right, and that’s what the founding fathers intended. Everybody has a right to be armed,” said Rex Weaver, chair of CTC’s board of trustees and a retired brigadier general. “If anything comes out of Legislature we will diligently apply the law.”
Randy McCauley, spokesman for Texas A&M University-Central Texas, said the decision about whether or not to opt out of the law, if it is passed and signed by Gov. Rick Perry, would be made by the A&M system’s board of regents.
“(A&M-Central Texas) will comply with all state regulations,” he said.
Opinions about the proposed bill is expected to be contentious and divided. Chuck Hempstead, executive director for the Texas Association of College Teachers, said his organization was opposed its passage even with the “opt out language included.”
“The research that we have seen shows that college campuses are very safe places compared to other places where people congregate; like malls, movie theaters and neighborhoods,” said Hempstead, whose organization represents hundreds of university professors in Texas.
While originations like Hempstead’s oppose the bill, others question if it goes far enough.
“While we appreciate the efforts of the Texas Legislature, we are disappointed they would allow universities to opt out,” said Kurt Mueller, spokesman for Students for Concealed Carry. “Nationwide, about half the states leave it up to the colleges, and the vast majority of colleges choose to prohibit conceal and carry on their campuses.”
Speaking Friday, a representative from Fletcher’s office said they expect the bill to come up for a vote in the Senate “within the next few weeks.”