Texas Lawmakers Expand Right to Carry Guns on College Campuses

Gun owners will next year be able to legally carry handguns in dorms, classrooms and buildings in public universities in Texas under a bill expected to be signed by the governor within several days.

The measure was passed by the state’s legislature Sunday night and will go to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he would sign it.

Of the 15 states to introduce guns-on-campus bills this year, Texas is so far the only one to have moved a measure to the governor’s desk. The legislative term in Nevada, where lawmakers are attempting to mount an 11th-hour effort to pass a campus-carry bill, ends on Tuesday.

The Texas bill that passed late Sunday reflects a series of compromises made by each side. It removes a blanket prohibition for guns on campus and it reduces the penalty for people who inadvertently carry a gun in an area of campus where it still might be banned.

Still, the measure—a watered-down version of one initially filed earlier this year—isn’t quite what other gun-rights supporters were hoping for. It exempts private schools entirely, and allows leaders on public campuses to create gun-free zones.
It “is an excellent first step,” said gun-rights group Students for Concealed Carry, in a statement. “We are looking forward to the next few years…[in which] we will work to finish the job and ensure licensed, law-abiding adults aren’t prohibited from defending themselves simply because they chose to pursue higher education.”

Sandy Chasse, a Texas-based volunteer with the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the final version of the bill could have been worse.

“We are pleased that the final version…[grants] universities broad discretion to keep their communities safe by deciding where and when it is appropriate to allow guns on campus,” she said.

Just how much discretion university leaders will be granted is open for debate, and probably could be tested in court battles moving forward.

It is likely that major universities in Texas will make use of discretion allowed under the bill, though none made specific pronouncements on what types of “gun-free zones” they would lobby for.

Leaders of the larger public universities in Texas largely had spoken out against increased campus carry.

In a statement, William McRaven, the chancellor of the University of Texas system, said that while the legislation’s passage was “not what we had hoped for,” it was “helpful that the bill was amended to allow our campus presidents…to develop rules and regulations that will govern the carrying of concealed handguns on campuses.”

The campus-carry vote represented the second expansion of gun-rights in Texas in the past week.

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