Texas set to allow concealed handguns on campus

Confusion remains over exemption language

Texas is a signature away from permitting handguns on college campuses after the measure saw final approval from the state Legislature over the weekend.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said he will sign the measure into law and is expected to do so within the next few days.

This year 15 states have introduced campus carry bills, but so far Texas is the only to push a measure through to the governor.

Texas's approval came just days before the first-ever National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2. In recognition of gun violence issues, people across the United States wear orange, much as hunters do.

Bill details

Senate Bill 11 will allow concealed handgun license holders, 21 or older, to carry their weapons on all college campuses in the state, but schools may carve out "gun-free zones" and private institutions may opt out of the requirement entirely.

In addition, violators will face a reduced penalty for carrying guns into campus areas where firearms are banned. Each university and college may establish its own rules on how guns must be stored.

Originally, the bill mandated all private schools must allow concealed carry, but that language was stripped during negotiations between the state's House and Senate.

Confusion over the language

There have been clashes over how to interpret the exemption permitting schools to create gun-free zones. Bill sponsor Sen. Brian Birdwell (R) says that schools will not be able to declare an entire building gun-free, and that public campuses will remain "permissive and accessible."

However, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D) says the provision provides more leeway.

"The words in the conference committee report that exist in various sections completely disagree with those remarks and sentiments made by Senator Birdwell and [state Sen. Van] Taylor," he says.

Students for Concealed Carry appeared to side with Martinez Fisher. The group declared the "gutted bill" a loss and says it "would appreciate it if the bill's authors and sponsors would quit confusing the issue by claiming a victory for our side."

Although, the organization did recognize it as an "excellent first step" and promised to "finish the job" in future years.

More strife to come

Even though the bill is set to become law soon, the fight regarding campus carry is just beginning, says Martinez Fischer. Now university leaders must draft their own regulations.

Leaders at the University of Texas System will "do everything in our power to maintain safe and secure campuses," says President William McRaven, who has vocally opposed the bill from the start and said this version is "not what we had hoped for" (Smith, Texas Tribune, 5/31; Jonas, Wall Street Journal, 6/1; Pendleton/Pendleton, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/31).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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