Campus carry faces last hurdle in Legislature

May 19, 2015

With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, the Texas House is all that is keeping a stalled measure requiring public universities and colleges to allow concealed handguns on their campuses from reaching the governor's desk.

Senate Bill 11 would require public universities and colleges to allow concealed handguns on their campuses.
Credit NPR

So-called campus carry could travel one of two routes to clear that chamber, passing as stand-alone legislation or as an amendment to another gun-related bill.

A House panel has already approved Senate Bill 11, now awaiting consideration by the Calendars Committee, which sets the chamber's schedule. The House's own version of the campus carry bill died after failing to be set for consideration before a key deadline.

The controversial proposal has been criticized by high-ranking university officials, including University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, who wrote a letter to lawmakers in January expressing his concern that allowing guns on college campuses “will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”

McRaven and others have suggested gun-wielding students might intimidate classmates and professors to the point of affecting their freedom of speech.

“If you’re in a heated debate with somebody in the middle of a classroom, and you don’t know whether or not that individual is carrying, how does that inhibit the interaction between students and faculty?” McRaven said at a Texas Tribune event in February.

Proponents of the measure argue that not allowing concealed handgun license holders to carry their firearms on campus infringes on the rights of law-abiding citizens — and, at worst, could leave them without a means to defend themselves during an attack.

Another route to passage — one the bill's House author, state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, said he had discussed with Senate leaders earlier this month — would be to amend the measure to another gun bill in the Senate.

The House passed House Bill 910, which would allow license-holders to openly carry their handguns in shoulder or hip holsters, in mid-April. Fletcher had attempted to tack his campus carry measure to the bill during that debate, but pulled it down under threat of a procedural challenge.

During a hearing on that legislation Monday, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, brought up the possibility of combining it with campus carry, but emphasized that he could not say "they will or they won’t."

If that happened, House members would have to vote to concur with the change, but the measure would be able to avoid potential obstacles in the Calendars Committee.

On Monday, state Rep. Larry Phillips, the chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, expressed optimism that campus carry would make it to the floor on its own.

"Bringing the Senate bill up, it allows the members to have a full debate and discuss it so that something of that magnitude does not become law without being debated here," Phillips, R-Sherman, said of SB 11 on Monday. "I expect it to be here within the next few days."

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said he will sign both open and campus carry measures if they clear the Legislature.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at