TX Gov. Weighs College Conceal-Carry Permits

     AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – The Texas Legislature approved a bill that will allow students and faculty to carry concealed handguns on college campuses in the state.
     Senate Bill 11, also known as campus carry, was passed by lawmakers on May 27 and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott on June 1st. Abbott is expected to sign the bill, given his ardent support of gun rights.
     The Legislature previously passed House Bill 910, which allows a person with a concealed-weapons permit to openly carry a holstered handgun in public. This bill is also awaiting Abbott’s signature and does not apply to universities.
     SB 11, authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R- Granbury, will allow a person with a concealed-weapon permit to “carry a concealed handgun on or about the license holder’s person while the license holder is on the campus of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education in this state.”
     Under the bill, universities would establish their own “rules, regulations, or other provisions regarding the carrying of concealed handguns on the campus of the institution” relating to specific safety considerations. This means that certain parts of campuses could be declared off-limits to concealed guns.
     But universities “may not establish provisions that generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus of the institution,” the bill states.
     Private schools can opt out of campus carry by establishing regulations banning handguns on their campuses, in buildings where any university-sponsored activity is taking place, or on university-owned vehicles.
     In 1966, the University of Texas at Austin was the site of one of the worst mass college shootings. The infamous sniper Charles Whitman shot and killed 14 people from atop the UT Tower on the campus before he was killed by police.
     Ramiro “Ray” Martinez, along with fellow Austin policeman Houston McCoy, is credited with stopping the 1966 shootings at UT. Martinez, a retired Texas Ranger now living in New Braunfels, told Courthouse News that he is against students carrying guns on campus – making campuses more dangerous rather than safer, Martinez said.
     He added that if campus carry had been around in 1966, it would not have made a difference since Whitman “had to be confronted at a very close range as he had barricaded himself in the observation deck.”
     UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves said the university will develop campus-carry protocols over the summer.
     “We will look at how other institutions around the country have implemented similar laws,” Fenves said “We will strive to create policies that conform with the new law, protect the rights of citizens – and ensure the safety and security of our entire campus community.”
     Supporters of campus carry argue that the law benefits responsible gun owners.
     Texas law requires a person be at least 21 years of age to be eligible for a concealed carry permit. Training courses and clean criminal backgrounds are also required for permit carriers.
     Campus carry would take effect August 1, 2016, in time for the start of the fall semester at the state’s college campuses.

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