House approves watered-down version of campus carry

Anderson Boyd

The Texas House hurriedly approved a weakened version of the "campus carry" bill, SB 11, Tuesday, minutes before the midnight deadline.

The bill, which requires public universities to allow concealed handguns on campus, passed with a 101–47 vote after House Republicans included language that would allow exemptions for health facilities and allow universities to carve out gun-free zones on their campuses. They also adopted an amendment requiring private universities to follow the lead of public universities.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), who opposes the measure, said the private university amendment may be enough to kill the bill, according to The Texas Tribune.

"Tomorrow morning there are going to be a number of powerful people — maybe alumni, donors, board members — who are going to say we better get sensible, practical and realistic about our gun policies in the state of Texas," Martinez Fischer said.

The current version that passed the House would require all campuses, both private and public, to allow campus carry.

Campus carry supporters claim that not allowing those with concealed handgun licenses to carry on college campuses infringes on the rights of law-abiding citizens and could leave students and faculty defenseless in the event of an attack.

But the measure has drawn criticism from high-ranking public officials, including UT System Chancellor William McRaven, who has spoken out against it. He wrote a letter to lawmakers in January expressing concerns with the bill, saying that allowing guns onto campus “will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”

“If you’re in a heated debate with somebody in the middle of a classroom, and you don’t know whether or not that individual is carrying, how does that inhibit the interaction between students and faculty?” McRaven asked at a Texas Tribune event in February.

House Democrats attempted to chub, or stall, the vote by adding 120 amendments to the bill during the last two hours of debate. Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) called a previous question motion 30 minutes before the midnight deadline, allowing Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) to call a vote without hearing each amendment, which drew ire from Democrat representatives.

During questioning, Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) asked why the House so vehemently wants guns on college campuses but does not want to increase higher education funding.

“If we feel so compelled to protect our colleges and universities and community colleges and to make them safe, where is the outcry to make sure they are adequately funded so that our kids get the education they properly deserve?” Turner said. “We are prepared to give them guns, but we are not prepared to give them money."

The bill will see its third reading Wednesday and will go to conference committee before reaching Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Abbott has said he will sign the bill if it passes the House and Senate.

Click here to read our editorial board's take on campus carry.