Bill To Allow Concealed Guns At College Gains Traction

College students with concealed handgun licenses could soon be able to carry their weapons onto public university campuses here in Texas. Under bills in both the state house and senate, public college campuses would no longer be off-limits for concealed-carry license holders. Predictably, those bills are creating some robust debate, as Jack Williams reports.

House Bill 1893 is about as hot as a gun barrel right now. Filed by State Representative Joe Driver of Garland, the bill would allow some college students and others to legally carry weapons on state campuses for the first time.

"You're talking about adult faculty, adult staff people, adult parents that are coming onto campus. Some of these people work there. Some of these people go to school there. Some people are students and teachers. They're all adults, and so what we're trying to do is say if they want the ability to protect themselves, and even if they have a license, they may choose not to carry. I don't carry all the time, but if we have one more person in the right place at the right time, they could possibly save a life."  

Texas is one of 24 states that ban guns on college campuses, even if you have a permit. 15 others leave it up to schools. Utah allows guns on campus and won't let schools ban them. State Representative Garnet Coleman of Houston says there's a reason guns aren't allowed. 

"It increases the chance of gun violence on a campus to allow people who walk onto the campus, to allow students and faculty to carry a concealed weapon. How do you know the difference between friend or foe if you're allowed to carry a weapon?"

Supporters of concealed guns on college campuses point to the Virginia Tech massacre as a prime example of why they should be allowed. They say lives could have been saved if the gunman had been stopped earlier. Katie Kasprzak is with the organization Concealed Carry on Campus.

"It's not even so much about a mass shooting because of course those are rare, but the daily crimes that happen on college campuses throughout the United States, rapes, assaults, different crimes that happen on campus, students need to be able to protect themselves if they so wish."

Andy Pelosi is executive director of The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. He disagrees.

"College campuses are, for the most part, extremely safe environments and I think that what you're doing is you're looking for a solution for a situation where there really isn't a problem right now."

Despite the opposition, Joe Driver's bill has some traction in Austin. Right now it's in the powerful Calendars Committee, which schedules bills for debate on the House floor. Driver hopes it doesn't die there. 

"You're dealing with a system that's designed to kill bills, so it could die at any point. It could have died in committee. It could have died before it ever got introduced. It could die in Calendars. Two of my joint authors are on the Calendars Committee. A couple of my co-sponsors are on the committee. We feel good about the bill. We have almost 80 co-sponsors on the bill if it hits the House floor. We have several other people that said they will vote with us."   

Senate Bill 1164 is similar to the House bill, but hasn't gone anywhere yet. Even if the legislation passes, a large number of college students still wouldn't be able to carry concealed handguns because they're not 21, as state law requires. 

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...