Texas lawmakers late Tuesday night took a big step towards legalizing the concealed carry of firearms at all of the state’s colleges, including private ones.
The state’s House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to the “campus carry” bill just minutes before a midnight deadline arrived, which would have killed the bill for the year.
Final passage on Wednesday appears inevitable, which will lead to conference with the state Senate, which has passed a similar bill already. They will have to move fast to create a final version, as the bill must be passed and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott by June 1 to become law. Abbott has pledged to sign the bill if it is passed.
House Democrats made a major effort to defeat the bill via procedural methods, barraging it with over a hundred amendments in an effort to hold it up before it could be passed. However, the amendments were dropped as midnight approached, giving House Republicans an opening for a procedural vote that approved the bill 101-47.
Democrats, however, successfully attached an amendment that they hope will kill the bill. Rather than simply having the law apply to all public colleges, it will now apply to private ones as well. Some Democrats think this will cause Republicans to think twice before passage.
“Now that all colleges and universities are required to carry on campus, tomorrow morning there are going to be a number of very powerful people … who are going to say, ‘We better get sensible, practical and realistic about our gun policies,'” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Another compromise amendment was added before passage as well, allowing schools to set up limited “gun-free zones” on campus.
Many states already allow concealed carry on college campuses, but the Texas law will go further by enshrining it as an explicit right that must exist even if college administrators object.
While Texas has a famously conservative legislature, the issue of campus carry has still been a contentious one for years and multiple bills have failed. Strong support from Abbott helped to get this bill over the hump.
Supporters claim bans on campus carry infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and increase exposure to violent crimes. Besides arguing that more guns would create a more dangerous campus, opponents have made some novel arguments. University of Texas chancellor William McRaven argued that concealed carry could hurt faculty recruiting, and an analysis by the Houston Chronicle argued that accommodating concealed carry could cost public schools alone over $47 million in the first six years.
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