Jordan Pahl

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

A Texas Senate committee voted Monday to send the House’s open carry bill to the Senate floor for consideration.

HB 910, which Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) authored, would allow licensed gun owners to openly carry handguns in belt or shoulder holsters. Senators reviewed the measure, which passed in the House in mid-April, in the State Affairs committee Monday. 

“I think everyone that is tackling these issues wants to work against violence. Sometimes we see these things in very different ways,” said Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), who laid out Phillip’s bill Monday.

Estes presented the bill with a few adjustments to the House version, including the removal of a controversial amendment by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) that would prevent officers from asking open carriers if they have a handgun license.

Later down the line, lawmakers may attempt to attach “campus carry” to HB 910, according to multiple reports. Several testimonies at the hearing brought up the possible addition.

Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), author of the House campus carry bill,  proposed a similar amendment when HB 910 was heard before the full House last month, but the measure was ultimately withdrawn.

Campus carry would allow licensed handgun owners over the age of 21 to bring their guns on campus grounds and in university buildings. Certain buildings, such as residence halls, K-12 schools and on-campus hospitals, would be exempt from the policy. Additionally, private institutions could opt out of campus carry.

Middle Eastern studies senior Jordan Pahl, along with other UT students, attended the hearing to testify against open carry and a potential campus carry amendment. Pahl said most University officials and students oppose campus carry, including UT-Austin President William Powers Jr. and UT System Chancellor William McRaven.

“Students and stakeholders will continue to oppose this legislation,” Pahl said. “It doesn’t contribute to the academic atmosphere of universities, and it does not make our campuses safer. We deserve a voice in what happens to our campuses and communities.”

Later during the hearing, Estes added that while most university officials oppose the bill, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp is in favor of the measure. Estes did not confirm that campus carry would be added as an amendment to the bill.

“There seems to be some concern that these bills will be combined,” Estes said. “I’m not saying they will or they won't.”

Troy Gay, Austin Police Department assistant chief, testified at the hearing on behalf of APD. He said the department believes that while open carry may be better suited in rural areas, it should not be implemented in cities.

“In highly populated areas open carry may cause unnecessary alarm due to our citizens and confusion to law enforcement officers during chaotic situations,” Gay said.

This discussion of open carry follows Sunday’s motorcycle gang shoot out at a Twin Peaks in Waco, where nine people were killed and 18 were injured. The shootout was used as an argument against open carry at the hearing.

Troy said the presence of openly carried guns in similar situations could worsen them. State Affairs Chairwoman Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) said open carry and Sunday’s incident are not related.  

"This bill does not have anything to do with what went on [Sunday,]” Huffman said.

The senate has passed its own versions of campus and open carry this legislative session. For HB 910 to become law, the Senate must pass the bill and the House must approve amendments made in Senate.

The bill must also obtain Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. According to multiple sources, Abbott plans to sign legislation related to both open and campus carry.   

Public health professor Alfred McAlister was one of two professors who spoke at the Students Against Guns on Campus rally in the West Mall on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Students Against Guns on Campus hosted a rally in the West Mall on Tuesday opposing House Bill 937, which, if passed, would allow guns in classrooms of public universities.

The rally aimed to show Texas legislators that the majority of students believe the bill would make campuses more dangerous, according to Jordan Pahl, Middle Eastern studies senior and a founding member of the anti-campus carry organization.

“Guns really alter the atmosphere of a university,” Pahl said. “Our University is already a safe place. The idea that students need their guns on campus to keep them safe is not [right] and … would not change [campuses] for the better.”

The bill is currently being considered in the Texas House. If passed, HB 937 would allow licensed handgun carriers to carry concealed weapons into campus buildings. Certain facilities, such as hospitals, pre-schools, grade schools and sports events, would be exempt.

Pahl said anti-campus carry representatives oppose the bill because of stressed students, drug and alcohol abuse, accidental shootings and the difficulty police officers may have identifying criminals in shooting situations.

Only a few dozen people attended the rally, which anti-campus carry SG President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu and multiple faculty members backed.

Public health professor Alfred McAlister said the majority of UT professors, administration and UTPD officers are also not in favor of campus carry. 

“Evidence proves the more guns that are out there, the more people get shot,” McAlister said. “How dare the legislature [be in the process of passing] a law that the University of Texas can’t opt out of. We should be furious. I am.” 

Chase Jennings, the senior advisor for Texas’ chapter of Students for Concealed Carry, a national organization in favor of campus carry, said students at public universities such as UT should also see the benefits campus carry could bring to universities.

Jennings said campus carry is more than just a way to protect against mass shootings.

“Unfortunately, police officers cannot be everywhere at all times,” Jennings said. “A lot of situations where [campus carry would work] deal with people protecting themselves when they are alone and are walking around campuses vulnerable to attackers. We have seen time after time where students get raped on campus and get attacked. People have the right to protect themselves.”