The bill that would expand concealed handgun-carry laws to Texas college campuses was revised last week by the House Public Safety Committee to allow private colleges to override the legislation and establish rules to continue campus gun bans, said state Rep. Lon Burnam, a Democrat from Fort Worth.
Under the revision, the university would be able to make its own choice on banning guns on campus. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Don Mills said if the bill passes as written, the board of trustees would most likely vote to make the decision for the university.
The bill passed in the House’s public safety committee Apirl 8.
“We’ve been opposed since the beginning, and it’s good that private schools can opt out now,” Mills said. “We can make our own decision about handguns, and I’m not sure the state should be telling private schools what to do. There’s a lot of concern among the trustees but it would be an interesting debate.”
Burnam sits on the committee and voted against the bill. He said the revision to the bill came as a direct result from the testimony provided during hearings. A group of administrators and officials from schools in the state, including Mills, spoke at hearings.
“The whole concept of a university setting is violated by the bill,” Burnam said. “We don’t need people walking across campus with guns, we don’t need people at sporting events with guns and we don’t need people drinking alcohol having guns. My analogy all along has been, ‘Do you want people packing heat at an A&M-UT football game?'”
Sophomore communications major Jordan Adair said she received 400-500 signatures from students at the university on a petition against the bill last week which she had put before the committee.
“It’s good to see the change made, but I wish that the bill would be dropped and we would have a 100 percent victory instead of a partial victory,” Adair said.
Sophomore political science and strategic communications major Kimberly Dena, chair of the TCU College Republicans, said the right to bear arms is a fundamental constitutional right.
“I understand there is a delicate balance between private university interests and individual rights, but I think that the right to bear arms is a right for even college students,” Dena said. “The university can work with having required training and regulations for those carrying handguns.”
Mills said his main problems with having handguns on a college campus is the prevalence of alcohol and the issue of suicide. Having handguns on campus provides a means for people to commit suicide, he said.
“When people have feelings of suicide if they don’t have access to a means to do it, than the urge to commit suicide fades,” Mills said.
The College Republicans will have Jeremy Schwab, a lobbyist for the bill and vice chairman for Collin County Young Republicans, speak at their weekly meeting tonight, Dena said.