Voters in the Democratic Primary will have an opportunity today to help decide whether campus carry will be on the party platform of the Texas Democratic Party.
On the ballot, the question posed to voters in the Democratic primary reads, “Should the Texas Legislature allow each public institution of higher education (not only private universities) to opt out of the ability to carry guns on campus?”
The question, which is a non-binding vote designed to guide the Democratic Party toward choosing its party platform for the election year, is posed during heightened tensions over campus carry. Both Students for Concealed Carry and Gun Free UT have suggested they may file litigation in response to UT President Gregory Fenves’ interpretation of Senate Bill 11, which mandates that universities must allow license holders to carry concealed weapons on public university campuses. Private universities, on the other hand, may opt out of the law. So far, each private university in Texas which has chosen, has chosen to opt of campus carry.
The campus carry referendum results would be considered by the Platform and Resolutions committee for inclusion in the Democratic Party platform, according to Manny Garcia, spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party. The party’s platform, Garcia said, would be adopted at the State Democratic Convention, which will be held in San Antonio June 16-18.
“We tried everything we could to stop it, but in the event it wasn’t going to be stopped, we were going to try to afford every ability possible for universities to judge how it would be implemented in their university,” Garcia said. “It became something that we were quite concerned about.”
The platform is non-binding but helps the Democratic Party determine which issues should be put on the platform, Cindy Flint, director of operations for the Travis County Democratic Party, said.
“[The Democratic Party is] just taking the temperature, so to speak, to see if that’s something the party supports,” Flint said.
Jordan Pahl, Student Government state relations director and University Democrats community director, said the resolution may influence legislators to consider allowing public universities to opt out of campus carry legislature.
“Most Democratic voters weren’t happy with the bill that ended up finally passing,” Pahl, a Middle Eastern studies and Russian and Eurasian studies senior, said. “It’s clear that this isn’t something that we wanted. If we were to get a complete opt-out provision added to the law, then I think UT would definitely opt out completely.”
Ashley Alcantara, Plan II and government junior and director of Hook the Vote, said the passage of Senate Bill 11 motivated Democrats into action.
“I would assume most Democratic primary voters will approve it, and it will become part of the party platform,” she said. “I think [the referendum] was definitely a response to SB 11 being passed during the last legislative session.”
In a statement, Students for Concealed Carry said campus carry enjoyed broad support among the general public when legislators passed Senate Bill 11 into law.
“Whether campus carry has broad support on a particular campus is not the legislature’s concern,” the statement said.
Regular voting takes place today in the Flawn Academic Center.