HB 972: GUNS ON CAMPUS, IN CARS
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Updated: Friday, June 21, 2013 17:06
On May 26, the Texas Legislature approved a final version of a bill that would allow students to carry guns on college campuses if they are at least 21 years old and have gun licenses.
The bill, introduced by state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) was approved 102-41.
Retired U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command agent Donald King said that this could potentially have negative repercussions.
“I have mixed feelings about this law, I think you would have to be really mature I don’t know if the professors would like the fact that their students are armed, but I think that this is up to each school to decide on,” King said.
House Bill 972, or more commonly known as “campus carry,” is a potential new law for the state of Texas. The bill remains to be passed in the Senate and following that, the bill will be proposed to Governor Rick Perry to sign it into law. Perry, a supporter of the Second Amendment, is expected to favor this bill and continue his support of fewer gun restrictions.
UTEP employee Julio Rogers is a gun law supporter as well as a gun owner and said that if the initiative becomes law, it would help to protect members of the university community.
“This is a law that will allow gun owners to help protect each other,” Rogers said. “Folks who do have hand gun licenses are very responsible people and have gone through an extensive background checsk and through training, so it’s not just anyone who can get a gun.”
Under the Texas Concealed Handgun Laws and Selected Statutes, section 411.172, eligibility is extended to those at least 21 years of age, who have not been charged of a felony, or with the commission of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. The applicant must be fully qualified under federal and state law to purchase a handgun, not be a chemically dependent person or suffer from a psychiatric disorder, among other restrictions.
Rogers added that the law could also protect vulnerable community members and invited people to inform themselves about guns.
“I encourage people to learn more about guns and safety. Learning that it’s not guns that kill people, that it’s the individual,” Rogers said.
This bill states that students, faculty and staff will be able to carry their concealed weapons in their vehicles and in some buildings on campus if permitted by their university. This bill also allows public colleges and universities to opt out of allowing guns on campus after consulting with members of the faculty, staff and with students. In addition private colleges and universities could opt in if they chose.
UT System Chancellor, Francisco G. Cigarroa, drafted a letter in March to Governor Perry establishing his opposition of guns on campus.
“I believe that, on balance, the permitted presence of concealed weapons will contribute to a less-safe campus environment,” he wrote.
UTEP officials have yet to make an official statement about their stance on the bill and whether or not they would opt out of enforcing it.
A similar “campus carry” proposal failed to pass in 2011.
King said that despite the increase of weapons on college campuses, potential gunmen will not be scared away.
“I don’t think that this would prevent any danger. A gunman who wants to wreak havoc is not going to think about other students having guns or anything like that, but it may make the students feel safer,” King said.
Sophomore criminal justice major, Victoria Baca said that this potential law will create uneasiness when it comes to going to school.
“I am against this bill for several reasons. As controversial as it is, the possession of guns is a risk in and of itself, and many risks are increased,” Baca said. “Also, the environment as a whole will feel less at ease knowing that gun possession is more lenient and increased. A campus environment should be free of that discomfort.”
Earlier in the year at Lone Star Community College near Houston, Texas, a 22-year-old gunman walked into the college and opened fire, shooting three people. Not too long before that a fatal mass shooting took place in December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 school children and six adults were killed.
In 2012, 16 other states introduced bills that would allow for concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses. None of these proposals passed.
The bill is now on its way to the Senate, but it is currently stalled in committee.
Amanda Guillen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's note: Richard Adauto, UTEP executive vice president, released a statement in response to pending legislation regarding concealed carrying of guns on campus.
“The University of Texas at El Paso has worked diligently to make our campus safer through collaboration with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the utilization of emergency notification systems, active shooter exercises and other measures. We realize that the discussion of allowing concealed handguns on college campuses is one of many important decisions being considered during this busy legislative session. However, as has been articulated in the past by the chancellor of the UT System, we too have a concern that the presence of weapons, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 and older, would lead to an increase in accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.