Over spring break, the Texas Senate gave final approval to SB 11, a campus carry bill for public universities. In response, members of the UT Student Government said they will intensify lobbying efforts to make sure a comparable bill is not passed in the Texas House.
Campus carry, in its current state, would allow licensed concealed handgun carriers who are 21 or older to bring their handguns on college campuses, including in most buildings. For it to become law, the bill must pass in the House and obtain Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.
Sports games, residence halls, hospitals, preschools and grade schools would be exempt from campus carry laws.
Sens. Judith Zaffirni (D-Laredo), Royce West (D-Dallas) and José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) proposed that the bill clarify the list of areas on campus where guns could be banned and said it is not clear whether universities could ban guns from bars, houses of worship, laboratories and medical clinics. Their amendments did not pass.
SG President-elect Xavier Rotnofsky, who has not yet been sworn into office, said he was not surprised to see the bill pass in the Senate and said SG will continue to oppose the bill and lobby to prevent its passage in the House.
“I guess a lot of proponents say that it’s our God-given right to self-defense, but, I think also by that same argument, we also need to defend ourselves against such legislation because it could potentially be more harmful than good,” Rotnofsky said.
SG members plan to increase lobbying and join forces with other student groups, such as UT Students Against Guns on Campus, in efforts to prevent campus carry from passing in the House.
“We’re going to do what we can to either testify or lobby to stop it,” Rotnofsky said. “It’s still something that can get shut down.”
Current SG President Kori Rady said SG members have spoken in opposition of the bill at public hearings and with legislators. Additionally, SG passed a resolution formally opposing campus carry.
SG Vice President-elect Rohit Mandalapu attended a public hearing Tuesday to speak against the House equivalent of SB 11. He said UT students have an uphill battle in preventing the bill’s passage.
“Especially for a lot of the representatives, I feel that they have their minds made up already,” Mandalapu said. “So it’s really [about which way] the swings are going to go. I do think it’s very much possible to get campus carry overturned in the House. Like I said, it will be very hard, I think. … We have to get a lot of support behind it.”
Rotnofsky and Mandalapu said there is not yet a plan for what SG will do if the campus carry measure does become law.
“We’d have to develop some sort of strategy with the president and [University of Texas Police Department] and all the groups involved,” Rotnofsky said. “For the most part, no, we haven’t sat down and thought about that — but if we see that these bills have a likelihood of passing, yeah, we’re going to come up with some stuff.”