Senate committee approves bill allowing guns in vehicles on college campuses

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Universities would not be able to prohibit students with concealed handgun licenses from storing handguns and ammunition in their vehicles on university property if a proposed law passes the Texas Legislature.

The Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the bill by a 4-1 vote Wednesday. The bill, filed by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, would prevent universities from adopting policies that would disallow licensed students from storing weapons in privately owned vehicles in parking garages, parking lots and streets located on university property.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman, said he believed Hegar’s proposal was a reasonable alternative to separate legislation that would allow concealed carry license holders to carry concealed handguns inside campus buildings.

Whitmire said he would not bring that legislation up for a hearing in his committee, citing the Dec. 15 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and law enforcement’s quick response to the Jan. 22 shooting at Lone Star College-North Harris near Houston.

“Quite frankly, I think there’s probably people right at this moment on campus with illegal guns in their trunk and on their person, but they’re doing it illegally and that’s wrong,” Whitmire said. “For us, the state to allow it, sanction it, I think is wrong at this time.”

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, authored legislation in the Senate that would allow concealed carry licensees to carry on campus. Birdwell’s chief of staff Ben Stratmann told The Dallas Morning News that he believes the legislation is “still alive.”

The situation is different in the House. A bill authored by state Rep. Allan Fletcher, R-Cypress, allowing concealed handgun license holders to carry those weapons on campus gained the approval of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee and is set to be heard before the full House.