The Texas Senate has approved a bill that will allow license holders to carry concealed guns on college campuses. The legislation, which the House is expected to adopt Sunday, includes wording that will enable college presidents to designate “gun-free zones.” While top universities across the state opposed the so-called “campus carry” bill, it was deemed a priority by gun-rights activists and is likely to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbot next weekend.
"Students have expressed concerns to me about their ability to protect themselves," said the bill's author, Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury, who said there is a "God-given" right to self-defense. "It's time we don't imperil their safety."
However, University of Texas Chancellor and retired U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven said it would make classrooms “less safe.”
The legislation would restrict the right to carry concealed weapons to students more than 21 years of age, meaning most students don’t qualify.
Lawmakers have attempted to pass the law three times since 2009. Each time, after prolonged and heated debate, it failed to become law. On this occasion, however, it took just a few hours to pass. New chamber rules in the Senate have hampered the minority Democrats' ability to block particularly divisive bills. The GOP can now bring bills directly to the Senate floor, avoiding having to insert language favored by the minority, so contested issues move forward.
Those opposing the bill have said it was “disturbing” lawmakers have ignored the majority of Texans and college stakeholders “who oppose guns on campus ... instead bowing to the gun lobby and extremist interests," said Sandy Chasse, a university language instructor and volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Huffington Post reported last week.
The Senate’s decision comes just days after it approved a bill allowing open carry almost everywhere across the state.