SENATE PANEL LOOKS AT CONCEALED CARRY ON CAMPUS
|Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio lays out a bill before the State Affairs Committee, one that would allow university students with a concealed handgun license to carry on campus.|
(AUSTIN) — Students at public universities in Texas could be armed in class under a bill considered by the Senate State Affairs Committee Monday. Under current law, it is illegal to carry a concealed handgun on a college campus even if a person has a concealed handgun license (CHL). Advocates of the bill argue that in light of past shootings at college campuses, students need to have access to firearms to protect themselves. "I don't want Texas college students picked off like sitting ducks by some deranged madman who comes on campus with a weapon as has happened on other campuses throughout the country," said bill author Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio.
The bill, SB 1164, would permit the carry of concealed handguns by licensed individuals on college campuses. In accordance with existing CHL laws, a person must be 21 years of age, have 10 hours of class or gun range training, and pass a handgun proficiency exam to obtain a license. The bill would permit individual institutions to make regulations related to keeping guns in dorms, meaning they could require that a gun be kept in a locked box or gun safe in residential halls. Unlike its House counterpart, SB 1164 contains a provision that would allow private institutions to opt out and continue to ban concealed handguns.
Students on both sides of this controversial issue came out to testify before the committee. "Every time I hear of [a school shooting], I feel helpless…because I know there are laws and ways around this that lives could've been saved," said Kenneth Jacobs, a student at UT-Arlington. He believes that armed students could prevent tragedies like what happened at Virginia Tech or the University of Northern Illinois.
Other students testified that more guns on campus would make them feel less safe. Keshav Rajagopalan, the student body president at UT-Austin testified that his student government has passed two resolutions against permitting concealed carry on campus. He believes that armed students are the not the best option when dealing with a school shooting situation. "It's absurd to me to act like people that, even with just a CHL that have a few days of training, could disarm a situation like that," said Rajagopalan.
The bill did not get a vote during Monday's hearing. "Before we consider this bill and vote on it I want to explore it fully," said committee Chairman Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 28 at 11 a.m.