AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — The Texas Legislature has approved allowing license holders to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses — but included a caveat that lets college presidents designate “gun-free zones.” The House voted 98-47 on Sunday to approve the measure, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.
The so-called “campus carry” bill was a priority for gun rights activists, even though top universities statewide opposed it. Both chambers previously passed their own versions of the bill, and a weekend agreement between House and Senate negotiators set up final approval.
Opponents won the concession of gun-free zones, though college presidents won’t be able to ban handguns on entire campuses. In order to obtain a concealed-carry license, though, Texans must be 21 — meaning many college students won’t qualify.
“While it is not what we had hoped for, I respect the Legislature’s decision,” said the University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven in a statement. “I also appreciate legislators for recognizing the very specific safety considerations that are unique to campus environments.”
McRaven goes on to say, “It is helpful that the bill was amended to allow our campus presidents to consult with students, faculty and staff to develop rules and regulations that will govern the carrying of concealed handguns on campuses. I look forward to working with our presidents as they craft these policies and bring them to our Board of Regents for review.”
McRaven, a former Navy admiral who directed the special forces operation to kill Osama bin Laden, has issued letters stating the campus carry bill would make campuses less safe.
New University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves said he will begin working with several members of the campus community to develop protocols for the campus.
“As part of the process of developing protocols consistent with the statute, we will also look at how other institutions around the country have implemented similar laws,” Fenvez said in a statement. “I will present recommendations to the board within the time frame provided, in preparation for the law that goes into effect August 1, 2016.”