By Kate McGuire, Taylor Rexrode and Linda Wilkins
A concealed carry bill has caused controversy and spurred reactions from Baylor and others in the community.
Senate Bill 182, proposed on Jan. 17, would allow students who have a concealed handgun license to carry concealed weapons on campus.
“My number one responsibility is to protect your right, even if you disagree or don’t express the opportunity to use it,” said State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Waco.
Birdwell quoted the Texas State Constitution to support his position on the bill.
“Article 1 Section 23 of the state constitution is the mirror of the US Constitution second amendment which says, ‘the right to keep and bear arms,’ which is the right to self preservation as your God-given constitutional right,” Birdwell said. “My intention of this bill is to affirm that right and ensure that folks have that opportunity.”
Birdwell said he intends to continue to push his bill into a Senate vote in an interview with the Lariat. The bill has yet to come to a vote in the Senate but Birdwell will continue to push for the bill’s implementation in Texas. Birdwell gave an example of the effects of the bill’s implementation:
“When you go to Kroger or HEB and you walk around with people with their CHL licenses, does it disrupt your grocery shopping experience?” Birdwell said. “No, it doesn’t. My duty as an elected official is to trust you with your constitutional right. That’s exactly what I intend to do.”
Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak declined comment on the current status of the bill, the safety of the students or how it affects his job. However, as the Lariat previously reported on Feb. 19, Doak said the job of the trained officers could be made more difficult if the bill were passed.
“Officers are not going to target a person just because they have a gun but in a situation with live gunfire, there is very little room left for thought,” Doak said in the article.
Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton did not comment on whether the proposed bill is a concern for police but said if a student is caught in a situation where multiple firearms are present, then that person must drop their weapon.
Swanton said the point of the Waco police is to follow the laws implemented by the state.
“Our concern is those who are carrying guns illegally,” Swanton said, “We usually don’t have problems with people who are licensed handgun carriers.”
Lori Fogleman, Baylor’s director of media communications, said new challenges would arise if the bill passes.
“Permitting guns would introduce new challenges for campus safety,” Fogleman said. “Right now the university continues to monitor the bill and its progress.”
This is not the first time Baylor officials have responded to a concealed carry bill in Texas. As the Lariat previously reported, House Bill 86 filed by State Rep. David Simpson in 2011 “would prohibit a public university or private or independent institution of higher education from adopting ‘any rule, regulation or other provision prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns on the campus of the institution.’”
Simpson’s bill also allowed for private institutions to opt out of the handgun regulation if they chose. There were two other bills that were in existence at the time that included similar legislation. the House Bill 750 by State Rep. Joe Driver and Senate Bill 354 by State Sen. Jeff Wentworth both required private institutions like Baylor to consult with faculty, students and staff before making rules against concealed carry.
During this instance, Judge Ken Starr traveled to Austin to express his opposition to Simpson’s bill. At the time he told the Lariat that Baylor would opt out of any concealed carry legislation that is passed. None of these bills passed to become legislation.