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Texas Senate approves open carry and campus carry bills

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As the Texas 84th Legislature continues to move along, so do Senate Bills 11 and 17, which will bring Texans closer to the possibility of being able to openly carry a gun in the state and carry a concealed weapon on university campuses.

On Monday and Wednesday of last week, the Texas Senate voted to approve SB 11 and 17, which would lift the state’s current restrictions preventing permit holders from carrying holstered guns openly, and repealing the existing law prohibiting concealed handgun license holders from carrying their weapons at public colleges and universities.

The votes on both SB 11, also known as campus carry, and SB 17, referred to as open carry, were identical as both were approved by a vote of 20 to 11, with all of the nays coming from the chamber’s Democrats.

The bills will now advance to the Texas House of Representatives for deliberation and approval.

“Because the Republicans have a strong foothold on the legislature, it looks like it’s going to be very probable that we will see them pass through the house,” said Jose Villalobos, associate professor of political science. “Also, the governor has already stated that he is waiting to sign them.”

Regarding campus carry, the bill does have one exception when it comes to where it is valid, as the bill was designed to respect private property rights, meaning that private universities would have the freedom to decide whether to allow firearms at their facilities.

In regard to the possibility of guns being allowed on public universities, University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven wrote a letter to lawmakers at the start of the session in order to warn them about the dangers of implementing such a law.

“There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflected wounds,” McRaven wrote.

Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, who has expressed his opposition to both bills in the past, issued a press release in which he expressed his disappointment with the passing of both bills.

“Unfortunately, the supporters of SB 17 and SB 11 chose to ignore the objections of law enforcement, and they would not even accept reasonable amendments to make the proliferation of guns less threatening for all of us,” Rodriguez said.

Among the amendments proposed was the prohibition of handguns in university health clinics, areas where federal classified research is taking place and at public speaking engagements on campuses.

“I personally don’t agree with the passing of a law that allows your everyday person to carry a gun, concealed or not, and less at school,” said Maria Hidalgo, junior social work major. “I don’t think we need access to carry guns to feel protected or feel that we can protect ourselves.”

Although both campus carry and open carry have been the high-profile bills elected for consideration this session, constitutional carry, which would eliminate handgun permits, has also been very popular among gun supporters, but has yet to receive any committee hearings by either chamber.

“I am not in favor of carrying guns, not because I favor a political side, but because I firmly believe it to be unnecessary,” Hidalgo said.

In Texas, to receive a concealed handgun license, a Texas resident must be 21 or older, take a half-day training course and pass criminal background and mental health checks. Should campus carry pass, these requirements would stay the same for individuals seeking to obtain a license to carry a gun on campus.

Alonso Moreno can be reached at [email protected].

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Texas Senate approves open carry and campus carry bills