PANEL CONSIDERS RELAXING GUN LAWS
|Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls sponsored the bill that would permit licensed open carry of handguns in Texas.|
(AUSTIN) — Handgun owners would have fewer restrictions on when and how they carry those weapons under two bills considered by a Senate committee Thursday. The Senate State Affairs Committee took up these controversial measures; one which would permit concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to carry on campus and another which would allow the open carry of holstered handguns. One of the bill sponsors believes that passing these bills into law will make the state safer. "I think that citizens that are trained and vetted with handguns whether open or concealed make Texas a safer place," said Wichita Falls Senator Craig Estes, who authored the open carry bill.
Estes' bill would replace the existing CHL with a new handgun license. Texans with that license would be permitted to carry a handgun concealed or in the open as long as it was stored in a belt or shoulder holster. The same background and mental health checks and training requirements for CHL applicants under current law would still be in effect for the new license. Forty-four other states allow some form of open carry, and Estes said that open carry hasn't caused problems there. "Testimony from all these other states is that it's been a non-issue," he said. "It's been uneventful."
The second measure, by Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell, would permit CHL holders to carry on the campuses of public universities. University administrators would be allowed to decide how weapons and ammunition are stored in campus dorms and residencies. Concealed carry would still be banned in places like campus bars or university sporting events on campus. Private universities would be allowed to set their own policies about concealed carry on their campuses.
|Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell authored a measure to permit CHL holders to carry concealed handguns on public university campuses.|
These issues proved divisive and drew testimony from state officials, law enforcement and members of the public expressing both strong support and strong opposition to these measures. The heads of the two largest universities in the state submitted opposing testimony to the committee. University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven wrote that more guns on campus could increase accidental and self-inflicted shootings. "Our parents, students, faculty, administrators and law enforcement all continue to express their concerns that the presence of concealed weapons on campus would contribute to a less-safe environment, not a safer one, " he wrote. Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp wrote that universities can operate by the same concealed carry laws that the rest of the state does. "Do I trust my students to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home?" he wrote. "Of course I do."
The campus carry bill was amended to the effect that if both SB 11 and SB 17 become law, that open carry would still be banned on university campuses both public and private.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, February 17 at 10:30 a.m.