Texas GOP: Guns on campus bill has votes to pass Senate

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — Two Republican senators say a proposal that would allow college students to carry guns on campus already has enough support to pass the upper chamber. Sens. Charles Schwertner and Brian Birdwell said Monday that 19 senators have endorsed their bill. It would allow students, faculty and staff members with concealed handgun licenses to carry guns into campus buildings and classrooms.

“We’ve had little or no problem whatsoever because these are 21-year-olds that are background checked and fingerprinted,” said State Rep. Allen Fletcher. “These are folks who have lawfully shown they can carry a weapon.”

Fletcher is one of the two men behind the bill and says its purpose is for students and staff to be able to protect themselves and use the weapon for self-defense.

“Law enforcement can’t be everywhere and these gun free zones are some of the most dangerous places in America and Texas,” he added.

The issue has sparked fierce debate in previous legislative sessions, but never became law. However, a rules change championed by new Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick reduced the threshold to debate Senate bills from 21 to 19.

That means there is now enough support for the “Campus Personal Protection Act” to go to the floor — and potentially pass. The House would still need to take up the measure.

“I think in (an active-shooter) situation, it could be useful in putting down the shooter,” said University of Texas Steve Rivas. “Because if no one in the room has a gun or a weapon, that shooter is free to do what they want.”

But not everyone agrees with the bill, and some students think it could actually make campuses more dangerous.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that people around me may be armed with a weapon,” said Elizabeth Park. “You don’t know who’s carrying one. I’d feel uncomfortable.”

New University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven says he does not support concealed weapons on campus and says his first priority is student safety. The former Navy admiral took over as chancellor in August. Meanwhile, Austin Community College said it is too early to take a stance on any bill, only saying they look forward to working with lawmakers this session.

If the bill passes, you could see guns on campuses as soon as next semester. Private institutions would be allowed to make their own rules, and elementary, middle and high schools would remain off-limits for CHL holders — even if the bill passes.

Seven states across the country allow people to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, and 23 states allow each school to decide whether to allow guns on campus. The remaining 20 states, including Texas, ban carrying weapons.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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