The woman who will lead the anti-campus carry movement in Texas has fired a gun all of once, at an outdoor recreation class in a Round Rock middle school.
That certainly didn't set Kristen Katz on the path of an anti-campus carry activist. The epiphany came when Katz attended a documentary on the 2007 Virginia Tech University shooting rampage at Texas State University with two survivors of that bloody winter day: Colin Goddard and John Woods.
John Woods, an earnest engineering grad student at UT-Austin, was the face of the opposition to campus carry back in 2011. Woods was on the Virginia Tech campus the day of the rampage. He lost his girlfriend, one of 32 murdered in the attack.
But that was four years ago, and this is today. The campus carry bill is up in a Senate committee on Thursday, and Katz is pretty much alone, with the exception of a Dallas colleague and a phone line to a national network. Most of the University Democrats who bombarded elected officials with phone calls in 2011 have graduated.
Amid intense criticism from the Second-Amendment crowd, which harangued Lt. Gov Dan Patrick for supposedly backtracking on gun-rights issues, Patrick fired off a Facebook post to "set the record straight" late last month: gun rights would definitely be a priority, and campus carry would be among the first bills to move this year. And fast-track it he did. Early this week, it was announced that campus carry was already set for a senate hearing.
"We did know, after Patrick's Facebook post, that it was going to be an issue, just not this soon," says Katz, "We aren't ready. We felt ambushed. Really, how much can two or three people do in three days?"
It's all Katz can do to keep the panic from her voice. Her team had months of campaigning and daily media coverage in 2011. This session, the bill, with 19 Republican co-sponsors, is expected to be the first major bill passed out of the Senate. If the campus carry bill, Senate Bill 11, passes as written, it will include no ability for public universities to choose to opt out of the law.
Opposition from the University of Texas System chancellor has done little to slow down momentum of the bill. UT Chancellor William McRaven directed the Naval forces that killed terrorist Osama Bin Laden. In his letter to Republican leaders, however, he wrote that campus carry would make colleges less, not more, safe. As he wrote in his letter:
"The University of Texas System has worked diligently to make our campuses safer, through the use of emergency notification systems and other measures. Yet our parents, students, faculty, administrators, and law enforcement all continue to express their concerns that the presence of concealed handguns on campus would contribute to a less-safe environment, not a safer one."
Both campus carry and open carry bills will be up in Senate State Affairs on Thursday morning.
Goddard, one of 17 students shot in a Virginia Tech French class, is flying down to testify. All Katz can do now is recruit, although she is hesitant to organize public rallies due to the more recent behavior of some in the open-carry crowd. You know, like the open-carry activists that were kicked out of a lawmaker's office on the first day of the Lege (sparking a new "panic button" policy at the Capitol). Or the guy who posted a video warning lawmakers that any of them caught opposing open carry would be guilty of treason (punishable by death, of course).
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.