Brian Birdwell

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate gave a final vote in favor of campus carry, a bill that would allow concealed handguns to be carried in college and university buildings.

No debate preceded the passage of Senate Bill 11, primarily authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury).

“Let me again say some very special thank yous to my colleagues in correspondence with this legislation,” Birdwell said. “Let me also say thank you to the colleges that were on the opposing side of this legislation for the rigor of the debate yesterday.”

UT System Chancellor William McRaven said in a statement he is still apprehensive about the effects of the bill on students, faculty and staff of UT System institutions. 

"I continue to hear from students, parents, staff and faculty about their uneasiness related to this legislation," McRaven said in the statement. "In light of this, it is my responsibility to continue to express our concerns as the Senate bill goes to the House and the House bill goes through the process."

University spokesperson Gary Susswein said in an email to the Texan that President William Power Jr.'s stance on campus carry has not changed.

"President Powers has consistently and strongly expressed his concerns about the safety of allowing guns on campus," Susswein said in the email.

Hospitals, preschools, grade schools, sporting events and residence halls would receive exemption from the policy if the bill becomes law. Additionally, private and independent institutions could ban campus carry on their campuses.

Similar legislation, House Bill 937, is pending a committee vote after an almost five-hour hearing earlier this week.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate gave inital approval to its campus carry bill after it was brought to the floor Wednesday for its second reading.

Campus carry would allow licensed handgun owners over 21 years of age to carry their handguns on public college and university campuses, including inside campus buildings. SB 11 will likely receive a third and final reading Thursday.

“My concern is to expand the freedom of our most trustworthy citizens,” Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), primary author of the bill, said.

Senators proposed a total of 25 amendments to the bill, 22 of which were tabled in a series of party-line votes.

Birdwell accepted three amendments – one preventing open carry on college campuses, one creating misdemeanor charges for violating private campus’ concealed handgun policies and another extending a private institution’s campus carry policy to off-campus facilities used for school sponsored events.

Handguns would not be allowed in areas where Birdwell said they are currently prohibited under state law, such as sporting areas, dormitories, hospitals, preschools and grade schools.
Sens. Judith Zaffirni (D-Laredo), Royce West (D-Dallas) and José Rodriguez (D-El Paso) each proposed amendments asking that Birdwell make areas on campuses, such as bars, churches, medical clinics, laboratories, events with guest speakers and federally classified research sites, exempt from campus carry. 

Birdwell said he wanted consistency on and off campus about where guns are allowed and turned down each amendment. 
“My intent is to create identical circumstances both off campus and on campus,” Birdwell said.

Multiple senators, including Zaffirini, also suggested that individual public universities and colleges have the ability to opt in or out of implementing campus carry.

“Maybe an institution in West Texas might like it, while an intuition in a metropolitan area would not,” Zaffirini said.

West said he believes the student body should vote on whether to implement the policy.

“Why shouldn’t students at our public institutions have the opportunity to participate in making a decision as to if we’ll have [campus] carry,” West said.

Birdwell said that while he welcomes student input, student opinions are best expressed in general elections.

“I’m not going to have a state constitutional right subject to a student body vote,” Birdwell said.

UT students and officials, such as President William Powers Jr., UT System Chancellor William McRaven, Faculty Council and Student Government, have spoken out against campus carry.

“I think the general view is, there are situations that can be volatile, and when a gun is present and alcohol is involved, or whatever, I think in the aggregate that’s a dangerous situation,” Powers said in a previous interview. “I believe our law enforcement professionals agree with that.”

Any expenses incurred as a result of campus carry implementation will be funded by individual colleges and universities. Campus carry would cost the UT System $39 million, according to fiscal notes submitted to the Legislative Budget Board. UT-Austin did not estimate any costs associated with campus carry.

“I do not believe that universities will bear a large cost or even a modest costs associated with implementation of this,” Birdwell said. “Because it is based upon the discipline of our [Concealed Handgun License] holders that for the past 20 years have been exceedingly responsible and well disciplined.”

A House equivalent of SB 11 was left pending in committee meeting Tuesday.

A bill filed by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) on Jan. 17 would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry firearms on campus. We asked UT students if they would feel safer if such a bill were passed.

For me personally, it’d make me feel less safe, just in the sense that I think the law would be too general by letting everybody carry a concealed weapon. Personally, I would prefer something where certain people could carry concealed weapons on campus, just because any random guy could walk up on the street with a gun, in that case, and have no repercussions for that action.

DT: What types of people did you have in mind?

Well, I mean, obviously, police. I don’t know, I feel that there would have to be more legislation for the background of people that have guns, and maybe creating different classes of where you can have your gun. That way, personally, you’re not taking away any [Second] Amendment rights.

Branden Chaisorn
Computer science senior from Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Less safe. I actually know cases where innocent people died because of shoot-outs, like lost bullets. So suppose that the guns are used to protect someone else — that would cause a shoot-out. If there’s a shoot-out, there’s a risk that I will get shot by mistake. So that actually makes me feel less secure.

Jesus Gonzalez 
Computer science senior from Pachuca, Mexico

In my personal opinion, I feel like it would make me safer that law-abiding people who have passed their examinations and who have been legally licensed to operate firearms — to own and carry their firearms by the government — are allowed to do so everywhere, including college campuses. It would definitely make us safer, because, in the wake of all these school shootings that have happened, especially the ones in Houston, Virginia Tech, all those — they’ve all happened in places that were gun-free zones at the time. So I feel like if somebody’s going to come in and start shooting people, they’re not going to respect whether guns are allowed there or not. So I’d rather the opportunity for people who are trained to use their weapons to be allowed to have that protection in case of such an emergency, and have it on hand so that they’re able to exercise that right.

Chris Thomas
Asian studies and journalism senior from Ossining, NY

Oh, no, I would not feel safer. Because, for example, someone turns out to be — sorry to say — a little bit crazy, like in just one split second, he gets angry, he could shoot someone. I would not agree with that. It could kill many people for no reason.

Kandice Najjar
Chemistry junior from Amioun, Lebanon

I would actually feel less safe, just because if everybody’s going to be holding a weapon on them, who knows what type of motive they actually have for holding that. So, it could be bad, it could be good — nobody knows — but I’d rather not take that risk.

Diana Mendoza
Communication sciences and disorders junior from Alice

Probably less safe. It’s somewhat disconcerting to know that anybody can be carrying a firearm on campus. They’d have to be licensed, I’m sure, but the licensing process is not nearly as rigorous as I would like it to be, at the same time. I feel like, if you should be able to bring a firearm on campus, you should probably have to go through a psych evaluation of some sort.

Sarah Luckey
Classical archaeology, ancient history, and English junior from Dallas

Definitely less safe. I mean, I know the whole issue with guns has been a big thing, especially in Texas, but I’ve just never believed in owning firearms. I’m just one of those people who just doesn’t believe in them. So, definitely I would feel less safe. I mean, there was just that recent shooting in that community college in Houston, right?  There’s no reason to bring them on campus, so I don’t see the point in carrying one around.

Gracie Jaimes
Nutrition junior from Austin

Less safe. Well, I guess, it’s really because I come from a country where weapons aren’t that common. And, well, looking at the statistics, more guns lead to more gun violence, so I don’t think that giving people guns will make it any safer for the rest of us. So, yeah, I’m generally pretty much against guns. I think only policemen, military and maybe licensed hunters should carry them.

Michael Malcer
‚ÄčAmerican studies senior from Wuerzburg, Germany

Less than a week after state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filed a bill that would allow concealed carry license holders to carry handguns while on university campuses, violence broke out in Houston at Lone Star Community College’s North Harris campus Tuesday.

Officials identified Carlton Berry, 22, as the suspected shooter. Berry is currently in jail after being treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the buttocks at Northwest Medical Center in Houston. Law enforcement officials have charged him with aggravated assault. 

Following an argument, Berry shot a Lone Star College student three times. The student is in critical condition. Another student, who was not shot, was taken to the hospital for an unspecified medical emergency. A maintenance worker for the college caught in the crossfire is reportedly in “good shape,” according to Richard Carpenter, chancellor of the Lone Star College System.

In a statement to The Daily Texan, Birdwell said the concealed carry bill known as the Campus Personal Protection Act will remain unchanged. 

“Though few facts or details have been confirmed as of late afternoon, the basis for filing the Campus Personal Protection Act remains the same,” Birdwell said in the statement. “This legislation is about ensuring that law-abiding citizens are able to defend themselves. It’s about trusting citizens with their rights.”

UT President William Powers Jr. has said he will oppose the bill. 

Students on campus had mixed reactions to the Lone Star College shooting.

“This incident reinforces the point of the gun control debate going on now,” said Zainab Haider, a community and regional planning graduate student. 

She said she supports making it more difficult to acquire guns.

Other UT students disagreed with tightened gun legislation. 

“More restrictions on guns won’t prevent shootings,” sociology sophomore Stephan Drawe said. 

Although Drawe disagrees with increased gun regulation, he also said he is against the idea of allowing people to carry concealed firearms on campus.

The Lone Star College incident is the latest in a string of public school shootings following the December shooting in Newtown, Conn. where 26 people were killed.

Printed on Thursday, January 24, 2013 as: Mixed reactions follow latest campus shooting