Revamped Campus Carry Measure Would Apply to Private Schools (UPDATED)

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Updated 5/28 @ 3:30 p.m.: State Senators have moved not to concur with changes made to campus carry in the House. At issue is the change requiring both public and private universities comply with the campus carry requirements. The bill's author, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, said that made him uneasy as "I am duty-bound to protect Second Amendment rights parallel to private property rights." The bill now heads to a conference committee and must be rectified and voted upon before the June 1 deadline.

At the end of a marathon session in the Texas House last night, members passed a measure that would allow students and faculty to carry concealed handguns on public and private college and university campuses. 

Democrats in the House had tried to weigh down Senate Bill 11 by proposing more than 100 amendments, hoping to keep a vote on the bill from coming up before the midnight deadline to pass Senate bills out of the chamber. As Texas Monthly's indefatigable Lege-watcher R.G. Ratcliffe writes, Democrats apparently cut a deal on the measure just minutes before the clock ran out. The bill cleared the House just in time on a 101-to-47 vote, with some very significant amendments attached. 

Some have called the retooled campus carry bill, as passed by the House, "watered-down" or "weakened" because it would allow for universities to keep concealed weapons away from campus health facilities and would also allow schools to establish so-called “gun-free zones" (for those students and faculty members who just wanna get away from the heat, we presume). 

But another change tacked on to the bill might just be enough to sink campus carry on final reading (the House still needs to take a final vote): public and private schools would be forced to allow concealed weapons on campus. 

While proponents of campus carry say banning guns from schools infringes on the rights of law-abiding citizens and neuters their right to self-defense, many educators and university officials—most notable among them University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven—have come out strong against guns on campus. 

In an interview he gave with the Texas Tribune earlier this year, McRaven worried that the presence of concealed guns might send a chill over the classroom, saying, “If you’re in a heated debate with somebody in the middle of a classroom, and you don’t know whether or not that individual is carrying, how does that inhibit the interaction between students and faculty?” And in a letter distributed to lawmakers Monday, McRaven wrote, “The presence of handguns on Texas campuses, where we would be one of fewer than 10 states to allow this conduct, may well cause faculty to be discouraged from relocating from other states. … The intuitive answer is that the precnese of concealed weapons will make us less competitive.” 

While the version of SB 11 passed out of the House last night might have limited where exactly people can carry guns on individual campuses, it radically expanded the scope of the bill by including private colleges and universities. Letting that amendment slip through appears to have been a strategic move by House Democrats, who may hope the private schools provision will increase opposition to measure and sink the bill on final reading. As Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, told the Texas Tribune, "Tomorrow morning there are going to be a number of powerful people — maybe alumni, donors, board members — who are going to say we better get sensible, practical and realistic about our gun policies in the state of Texas."

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