Despite student opposition, the State Affairs committee voted to recommend that the Texas Senate pass SB 11, a bill allowing students, faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on campus, with a vote of 7–2 on Thursday.
The committee hosted a Senate hearing to allow supporters and opponents of “campus carry” to express their opinions about the bill.
If passed by the Texas Legislature, the bill would allow licensed gun owners over the age of 21 to bring concealed handguns into University buildings and on University grounds. Hospitals, residence halls, sporting events, preschools and secondary schools would not permit campus carry.
Public relations junior Andrea Hiller said she is concerned for the safety of female students on campus if SB 11 were to pass because of the possibility of sexual assault.
“To allow guns on campus would heighten fear in the female student population, including myself,” Hiller said. “How can I continue to be a dedicated student when I’m too afraid to walk or be alone on campus? Let me remind you that similar to many of my peers, I am under 21 and would legally not be able to defend myself [with a gun].”
Government freshman Jordee Rodriguez said colleges are not conducive to campus carry because four out of every five college students drink, creating an unsafe environment for guns.
“Considering the elevated risk for binge drinking by college students and the aggressive behavior that results from it, I am concerned that allowing armed weapons on campus would only facilitate attacks on students by individuals whose reasoning is hampered by intoxicating substances,” Rodriguez said.
UT System Chancellor William McRaven has previously stated he opposes campus carry, while Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp has said he supports it.
Waco sheriff Parnell McNamara, who was invited to speak at the hearing, said he is in favor of campus carry because he thinks it will create an added protection measure for victims of crime.
“The police can’t be everywhere at once,” McNamara said. “We simply can’t. The person, the victim — say you — are the first responders. Not the police. You’re the first one that knows what is happening to you.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said he is opposed to open carry because university campuses are an area with concentrated mental health problems, alcohol use and sexual assault. Acevedo said he thinks public universities should at least have the option to opt out of campus carry, like their private school counterparts.
“As a father whose son is at a public institution, I certainly would hope that my son and his fellow students and the people [who] work in the public institutions will be given the same courtesy that those who can afford it will have, and that’s the option to opt out,” Acevedo said.
Student Government President Kori Rady said he anticipates SG will soon vote on an SG resolution opposing the policy.“From my understanding, students feel safe on campus and in a classroom, and to change something that really isn’t broken doesn’t make sense to me,” Rady said.
At the hearing, Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), who originally authored the bill, said that if an open carry law were to pass, he would not support its enforcement on campus.
“It has not been in the past, nor is it now, my intent to allow the open carry of guns on campus,” Birdwell said.