Push for concealed carry on public campuses heats up

Gun ControlBy Sierra Baumbach
Staff Writer

In the wake of recent gun violence, one Texas bill may impact college campuses and their safety.

Texas State Sen. Brian Birdwell, who represents Waco and surrounding District 22 counties, recently filed legislation to allow students, faculty and staff with a concealed handgun license to carry firearms for personal protection on college campuses.

While legislation similar to Birdwell’s has been seen before, this filing came only days before a school shooting on January 22 at Lone Star Community College in Houston.

Senate Bill 182, or The Campus Personal Protection Act, affirms private property rights by ensuring that independent or private universities may establish rules concerning CHL-holders on their campuses, and regulations governing the storage of handguns in dorms.

“My intent is to affirm the rights of the law-abiding,” Birdwell said in an interview with The Monitor two days after the Houston area shooting. “When you tell the law-abiding that they can’t exercise 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.”

The bill also prevents colleges or universities from circumventing the intent of Act by imposing Administrative bars or penalties on students or employees lawfully carrying a licensed handgun on campus.

Texas Sen. Donna Campbell of the 25th District, who has joined Birdwell in support of the bill, said in a press release, “We’ve seen the tragedies that occur when law-abiding citizens are forced to disarm while violent offenders break the law. We shouldn’t have to surrender our rights at the door of our public universities.”

She went on to say the Campus Personal Protection Act restores Second Amendment rights and is a step in the right direction toward protecting law-abiding citizens and preventing further tragedies.

Birdwell is also backed by the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association with TSRA Legislative Director Alice Tripp saying in a statement that “Personal protection is a basic human right.”

“The TSRA — the state-affiliate of the NRA — and our 45,000 Texas members strongly support Senator Birdwell and his legislation allowing adult Texas concealed handgun licensees to have this option for personal protection with them in their vehicle, on campus property, and in the classroom,” Tripp said.

Not everyone, however, is supportive of the bill.

In a study published in the Journal of American Health and featured on the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence website, 86 percent of campus police chiefs disagree or strongly disagree that allowing students to carry concealed weapons on campus would prevent some or all campus killings.

Only 5 percent agree that allowing guns on campus will prevent killings.

Baylor Police declined comment on the situation, saying only that there had been conversations over it already.

Lori Fogleman, director of media communications at Baylor, said permitting guns on campus would present new safety concerns.

“Because it would present so many new concerns, we generally do not believe that guns on campus are a good idea,” Fogleman said.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who recently went public saying that he would not enforce new federal gun laws, is behind the Campus Personal Protection Act 100 percent.

“Cowards love gun free zones, they love schools, they love churches and they like to pick out places that they can do the most damage,” McNamara said. “I believe self-defense is a human right that we all have, we all have the right to survive, and an obligation to get home safely at night, for ourselves and our loved ones. People who have been trained in the proper use of firearms and firearm safety should have the right to carry wherever they may be in order to take care of themselves.”

Versions of this bill have been seen in the Senate before, prompting Birdwell to address concerns raised by lawmakers in past sessions.

This bill expressly states that concealed carry would not extend to hospitals, day care centers or K-12 schools even if located on college or university campuses.

The Senate resumed session on Jan. 8 and the exact date that the bill will undergo review is unknown as of now.