AUSTIN, Texas — One of the top pro-gun bills before Texas lawmakers this session was green-lighted Monday for a House floor vote this weekend, and a top backer predicted approval there for the plan to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their handguns into college classrooms.
The Calendars Committee scheduled the floor vote for Saturday in the House. Getting the bill even that far is a significant development for supporters of an issue that erupted into one of the most contentious of the session two years ago. In 2011, the issue died without a vote in the House despite a majority of member signing on in support.
This year, the House version of the bill would eliminate the current ban on concealed weapons at colleges and universities, but it still allows public schools to ban weapons if they first meet with students, faculty and staff to consider their input. Private schools would be allowed to opt in.
Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, one of the primary authors of the bill, said the opt-out language has softened opposition from higher education officials who worry that allowing guns on campus will increase campus violence and suicide. He said he expects the House will approve it but declined to discuss its prospects in the Senate.
“I think it will pass,” Flynn said Monday. “Texas is a rural state. … Most of the opposition has been in Austin.”
University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa earlier this year wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Perry urging a guns on campus bill not pass. Cigarroa’s letter said students, parents, faculty and campus police worry that allowing guns into classrooms will create a culture of fear among students and teachers.
John Woods, a University of Texas graduate student whose girlfriend Maxine Turner was killed in a 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, called the bill part of “an ideological agenda having nothing to do with campus safety.”
“The bill authors cite Virginia Tech but refuse to hear the Virginia Tech survivors, all of whom are opposed to guns in classrooms,” Woods said.
Texas is one of the strongest gun-rights states in the country and has allowed concealed handgun licenses since 1995. License holders must be at least 21 years old and pass a training course.
Texas has more than 500,000 concealed handgun license holders and they are allowed to carry their weapons many places, including the state Capitol where simply showing their license to security will allow them to bypass metal detectors.