The Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to a measure Wednesday that would permit concealed handgun license holders to carry weapons on campus.
Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell authored the bill, and he argued that the right to bear arms is a sacred right that shouldn’t stop on university grounds. “The people of the state of Texas own our public universities, therefore we ought not be limiting a right on public property,” he said.
SB 11 would remove the current restriction that prohibits CHL holders from carrying handguns into buildings on public campuses. In order to respect the rights of property holders, Birdwell said that private universities would be able to decide whether or not to permit concealed carry on their campuses. Public universities would be permitted to set rules for storage of weapons and ammunition in dorms and other on campus residencies, which Birdwell said could include a total prohibition on keeping weapons in dorms. Restrictions against concealed carry off-campus already in law, such as in hospitals, bars and sporting events, would still apply to such locations on-campus. The bill was amended to disallow open carry on campus should Monday’s open carry bill become law. The Senate will hold a final vote on the measure Thursday.
Texarkana College President, James Henry Russell, told TXK Today, “Texarkana College is watching and waiting on the outcome of the final concealed carry bills and will determine the next steps for our institution when we know a little more. It is likely that many TC students and employees have obtained permits under the current concealed carry law. We believe that appropriate training and background checks for permit holders are key to a safe campus. From an administrative standpoint, however, our main concern with the legislative session right now is that the common voice of millions of Texans is heard by elected leaders and that they will give more attention to real issues Texas needs to deal with including transportation, water, education and tax relief. From our standpoint, the position of funding for the workhorse of higher education, Texas Community Colleges, is of utmost importance. If legislators would spend as much time and effort on the topic of community college funding as has been given to the concealed carry bill, they would have a greater awareness of the importance of supporting a bill to ensure community colleges have the resources they need to train a skilled workforce for our state.”
Allowing concealed weapons to be carried on college and university campuses would create “less-safe” environments University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven wrote in a letter to Texas legislative leaders in late January.
“There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds,” he wrote.
In the letter, McRaven, who became UT Chancellor in January makes no mention of his previous career. A four-star admiral in the Navy, he is the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and is best known for leading the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Also Wednesday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony for a bill that would give terminal patients faster access to potentially life-saving experimental treatments. Current federal law allows terminal patients to seek such treatments, but the process is long and arduous. “In these types of situations, time is the great predator,” said Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt. His bill, SB 694, called the Right to Try act, would greatly streamline the process to seek experimental treatments for people with a terminal diagnosis. Doctors would not be obligated to prescribe the medication nor would insurance companies be obligated to pay for the treatments. The bill remains pending before the committee.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, March 19 at 10 a.m.