On Monday, state legislators in the House and Senate filed identical bills that would allow university students, faculty and staff with licenses to carry concealed handguns in campus buildings.
Under current Texas laws, licensed students, faculty and staff at universities are allowed to keep handguns in cars on campus, but general “campus carry” is illegal even with a permit.
Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cyrpess), a primary author of the bill, said HB937 would only apply to students over the age of 21 who have completed training and background checks.
“As long as they are concealing their gun as law requires with a license, we don’t want them to have to unarm themselves to [go to class],” Fletcher said.
The two bills, HB937 and SB11, prohibit university officials from creating rules to ban concealed handguns on campus generally. Each bill does provide some leeway in certain areas and buildings on campus — according to the bill, administrators could still prohibit concealed handguns in residence halls, university-operated hospitals, and on-campus preschools, elementary schools and secondary schools. More than 400 students between the ages of six weeks and five years under are enrolled in UT’s on-campus Child Development Center.
The bills also contain provisions that would prevent universities from being liable for the actions of concealed handgun owners.
Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), who opposes campus carry and serves as vice chair of the higher education committee, said he thinks college campuses should be a “safety zone,” free of guns.
“I don’t know why in the world we would allow the proliferation of handguns on campus,” Royce said.
Four Republican members of the House have signed the bill as joint-authors in support of the policy alongside Fletcher.
19 of the 20 Republicans in the Senate are listed primary authors of SB11. Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) is the only Republican senator not listed as a primary author.
Huffman will review the bill further before deciding whether or not to sign on as an author, according Huffman spokesman Austin Arceneaux.
“As a legislator, Senator Joan Hoffman has always been one to gather all the facts, carefully examine how legislation will be implemented and always give thoughtful consideration before signing on to any piece of legislation,” Arceneaux said. “She fully attends to approach senate bill eleven in the same manner.”
Similar campus carry bills have sparked debate in previous legislative sessions, but ultimately failed to pass.
President William Powers Jr. said he would not support campus carry policies at UT.
“I think the general view is, there are situations that can be volatile, and when a gun is present and alcohol is involved, or whatever, I think in the aggregate that’s a dangerous situation,” Powers said. “I believe our law enforcement professionals agree with that.”
Representatives from the UT and UT System police departments declined to comment.
Chancellor William McRaven could not be reached for comment, however, System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said McRaven does not support campus carry.
“He does not support concealed weapons on campus and is concerned about the dangers that handguns inherently present,” LaCoste-Caputo said. “Chancellor McRaven plans to send a letter to governor Greg Abbott outlining his thoughts on the issue.”