‘Campus carry’ bill passes House

May 8, 2013

The country knows all too well that guns have already been on college and university campuses.

Soon, they may be in the hands of the good guys.

On Monday, the Texas House passed HB 972 – the “campus carry” bill filed by Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), a former Houston police officer. It is a companion bill to SB 182, filed by state Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury).

HB 972 passed with a 102-41 vote, according to Fletcher’s chief of staff, Robert Papierz. He told the Hood County News that the bill would make it over to the upper chamber for consideration “in about a day.” Twenty-one of the state’s 32 senators must approve the measure for it to become law, Papierz said.

The proposed law allows colleges and universities to let Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holders who are 21 and older store or carry weapons on campuses. It would apply not only to staff and faculty, but to students as well.

Papierz said that Fletcher’s bill was “identical” to Birdwell’s when both bills were filed, but amendments were made to HB 972.

“We didn’t want to over-reach in the House,” he said. “We had to work out some new language to make it acceptable to more members.”

The bill is one that is similar to campus carry laws passed in 24 other states, according to the Texas Tribune. The online news source quoted Fletcher as saying that the majority of serious crimes that occur on campuses happen within minutes, before police officers have a chance to arrive on the scene.

There have been several incidents of violence on campuses of higher learning in the U.S. One of the worst killing sprees in history occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech in April 2007.

Senior Seung-Hui Cho, after having already killed a student and a residence hall assistant, chained the doors of the engineering building on campus and went on a shooting rampage, going from classroom to classroom.

By the time he turned the gun on himself, he had killed 32 and wounded 17. Six others were injured when they jumped out of windows to escape.

Birdwell said that the average CHL holder is “a model citizen.” Statistically, he said, they commit few crimes.

After filing his bill back in January, Birdwell said: “For me, this isn’t just about the firearm. It’s about trusting citizens with their God-given, constitutional rights.”

Birdwell’s bill was joint-authored by 13 other lawmakers. Nevertheless, campus carry bills are not without controversy.

In February, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that two Baylor University professors delivered to Birdwell’s Waco office a petition bearing 120 signatures of faculty and staff members opposing the proposed bill.

concessions made

Fletcher’s bill has an “opt-out” provision that allows schools the option of not participating. Those institutions could suspend or expel students who violate that campus’ policy regarding weapons, Papierz said.

The bill also allows private institutions to “opt in, if they want,” he said.

Institutions can renew the policy annually, after a review process with students, staff and faculty.

With both HB 972 and SB 182, CHL holders would not be allowed to bring weapons to athletic events or sporting venues. Prohibitions currently in place for bars, hospitals and churches would still apply, even if they are on college or university campuses.

Last week, Birdwell addressed his frustrations over SB 182’s lack of progress in an “op-ed” piece posted on his Senate website.

“At this moment, SB 182 is stalled in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and my request for a hearing has not yet been scheduled,” he wrote.

It remains to be seen how HB 972 will fare in the Senate. Last week, state senators passed a measure allowing CHL holders to bring guns onto campuses – but the weapons must remain secured in vehicles.

“How can we as public servants justify denying an individual’s God-given right of self-preservation – especially in a setting in which criminals have repeatedly proven they will attack the defenseless?” Birdwell wrote in his piece.

house okAYS school marshals

The Texas House on Monday passed another piece of legislation pertaining to guns and school campuses.

Rep. Jason Villalba’s (R-Dallas) bill would create a new category of law enforcement officer called school marshal.

Similar to air marshals that came into being after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the campus-based officers would undergo training and psychological examination by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE).

School districts would have the option of whether to hire school marshals.

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