Campus carry has been a controversial topic for multiple sessions and has come back into the spotlight after an argument on a Lone Star College campus in North Houston on Monday led to gunfire and multiple injuries.
For opponents of campus carry, the takeaway is that more guns lead to more harm on otherwise safe campuses. For supporters, such incidents are proof that current restrictions make those campuses havens for illegal gun use.
"What happened at Lone Star College is of grave concern to all. It's a blessing that no one was killed," Capriglione wrote in an email, noting that he had planned on filing the bill prior to the incident. "We must ensure that law-abiding citizens are allowed to defend themselves when attacked."
In an interview on Thursday, Birdwell said the week's events had not changed his plan to pursue passage of the legislation.
"My intent is to affirm the rights of the law-abiding," he said. "When you tell the law-abiding that they can't excercise a God-given, constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms, you make them subject to the tender mercies of the criminal element that would do them harm and you make them defenseless against that element."
John Woods, a former Virginia Tech student who has become one of the leading advocates against campus carry in Texas, argued that arming more students would diminish campus safety. He said he would continue to oppose the bills this session.
"We're absolutely going to fight it," he said. "I think it's bad policy, and I think the vast majority of Texans agree with me. Certainly, the vast majority of survivors of campus shootings agree with me. And the vast majority of students, parents, faculty members, campus administrators and campus police chiefs agree with me. They are going against the people on this one."
The House and Senate bills are not identical. Birdwell's legislation makes some changes to address concerns raised by other lawmakers in past sessions. It expressly states that concealed carry would not extend to hospitals, daycare centers, or K-12 schools located on college or university campuses. Capriglione's bill does not include such a provision.
Capriglione asserted that voters in his district support the idea and said he feels good about its chances in the Legislature. "The environment for expanding responsible handgun protection has improved statewide," he said. "If the bill makes it to the House floor, I feel confident it passes. It's not going to be easy, but for the sake of our students, it needs to happen."
At a Texas Politics Speaker Series event on Thursday, Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, indicated that the issue was not a high priority for either of them. Seliger said he expected the bill would get a hearing in his committee.
Branch noted that in previous sessions, the bill had gone through a different committee in the House. He also indicated that his preference would be to leave gun policy decisions up to boards of regents and campus administrators rather than having the Legislature issue a "one-size fits all" policy.
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