Texas Senate Gives Campus Carry OK; Moves to House

Ernie+Vandergriff+fires+at+a+target+during+a+class+for+a+concealed+handgun+license+%28CHL%29+at+The+Shooting+Gallery+in+Fort+Worth%2C+Texas%2C+January+17%2C+2013.+A+CHL+will+be+required+if+%27Campus+Carry%27+is+passed+by+the+Texas+House+and+is+signed+into+law+by+Governor+Greg+Abbott.+

Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS

Ernie Vandergriff fires at a target during a class for a concealed handgun license (CHL) at The Shooting Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, January 17, 2013. A CHL will be required if 'Campus Carry' is passed by the Texas House and is signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.

The State of Texas is closing in on a policy requiring state-funded colleges and universities to allow concealed handguns on their campuses. Senate Bill 11 was approved on March 18, along party lines with all 11 Democratic members in opposition to the bill.

According to a statement distributed via email by San Jacinto College District Chancellor Brenda Hellyer, during the 2013 state legislative session, the legislature passed a law allowing guns to be stored in a locked vehicle. Other than this one exception, it remains unlawful and a third degree felony to possess and bring a weapon onto any of San Jac’s campuses. Firearms, whether loaded or unloaded, may not be brought into college facilities or displayed to others.

The Abilene Christian University Police Department Chief of Police Jimmy Elision has vigorously debated the campus carry issue.

“Under current Texas law, if you are a concealed handgun license holder, you are legally allowed to carry a concealed handgun on or about your person,” Ellison said in an interview with The Abilene Christian student publication, The Optimist. “But, under the current law, you are not allowed to carry your concealed handgun onto the college campus other than into parking areas, where you keep it locked in your vehicle.”

The statement released by Hellyer did not take a stance on behalf of the College, for or against the bill, though she did encourage San Jac students to vocalize their opinions.

“I want to make sure I provide you with factual information on this topic and information on how you can let your voice be heard,” Hellyer said. “It is important for your elected officials to know your position, and it is important for you to exercise your right to vote in our election process. I encourage you to participate in these ways.”

Although Hellyer did not take a position on behalf of San Jac, some college and university chancellors around the state, however, did.

“I’m a big second amendment guy, you know; I’m a strong supporter,” University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven said in a conference March 31. “But my position today — I’m an educator. As I look across the students and the faculty and the administrators and the staff and their concerns that they have voiced to me about this creating an unsafe environment with more guns on campus, it’s hard for me to support campus carry when I see their concerns.”

Though the UT System Chancellor is adamantly against campus carry, Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp gave a different feel to his views in a statement letter to the Daily Toreador, the student publication of Texas Tech University.

“I cannot speak to the effect campus carry would have on other institutions and their students,” Sharp said, according to the Daily Toreador. “However, I have complete trust and faith in our students. Having licensed gun owners in possession of legal weapons on our campus does not raise safety concerns for me personally.”

Proponents of the bill say that the ability to carry weapons on campus will serve students better in instances where campus police are not able to protect and serve.

“With a license to carry, I think campus carry should be allowed. There have been rapes, murders, school shootings; many things all over the United States on college campuses that could have been prevented if the victim or a bystander were carrying a gun,” San Jacinto Alumnae Michelle Willoughby said. “If I could have carried a gun while I was in college, I would have for self-defense. There’s no way I could take down a grown male attacker without one.”

Opponents of the bill say that access to guns will create situations that will make them uncomfortable in a learning environment, and is not beneficial.

“Schools are drug and weapon free for a reason,” Sophomore Victoria Ferro said. “If we start allowing weapons on campus, it certainly shouldn’t be the students carrying them. We’re here to learn, and schools should provide us with safe environments to do so.”

Though campus carry is a heated topic of discussion, Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, remains steadfast in his support of the bill to become law according to The Dallas Morning News.

“I will sign whatever legislation that reaches my desk,” Abbott said, “that expands Second Amendment rights in Texas.”