Misguided open carry, campus carry legislation demonstrates need for student voices in civic process

As the 84th Texas Legislature nears the end of its session, gun rights appear to be among the accomplishments Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will herald the next time either runs in a Republican primary election. The legislature gave its all-but-final-approval to both open carry, passed May 22, and campus carry, passed May 26. HB 910 allows concealed handgun license-holders to openly display their firearms in public. SB 11, meanwhile, allows those licensees to take their weapons onto the campuses and into the buildings of public universities, including The University of Texas at Austin.

Only a few formalities separate the aforementioned legislation from Abbott’s desk. The House and Senate versions of both open carry and campus carry, respectively, must go through a conference committee in order to clear up any differences. A chance remains that the proposals, particularly campus carry, may not get to Abbott’s desk by the legislative deadline on June 1, but that does not appear likely.

The proposals are a dangerous means of disrupting public comfort for many and a flagrant dismissal of public opinion. The ability to openly display firearms in public will generate unnecessary tension, while the ability to carry firearms on campus will stifle the learning and growing processes.

A pair of amendments proposed by state Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and state Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) will exacerbate these issues by restricting law enforcement from asking those openly carrying to show their CHLs. This effectively eliminates any need to obtain a CHL, and gives everyone, even those who are barred from obtaining a CHL such as convicted felons, the ability to openly carry.

As for campus carry, both the House and the Senate made sure that public universities opposed to this witless proposal, including this university, may not totally opt-out. Perhaps more egregiously, one amendment by State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) tramples upon the private property rights of private universities, forcing them to adhere to the standards adopted by public universities. Our aloof government will violate the concerns of the university’s chancellor, president, faculty and students by imposing this legislation. Such a move illustrates the government’s lack of touch with constituents.

Still, there is some hope. Another successful amendment proposed by Zerwas would allow public universities to limit exactly where firearms are permitted on campus by a two-thirds vote of its Board of Regents. Additionally, open carry will not be extended to college campuses. Regrettably, the Senate appears likely to strip Zerwas' second amendment.

It is a heinous offense to our campus that, after all of students' and administrators' outspoken opposition to campus carry, our representatives decided they knew better and look likely to pass the misguided bills. Sadly, though, students themselves share some of the culpability for what has happened this session because of their lack of political participation. This is why student voting is so important, as officeholders tend to take concerns of voting constituents more seriously than those who do not vote. Remember this day. If our voices could not prevent the wrongs of this legislative season, our votes may right them next year.