Royce West

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.

Photo Credit: Becca Gamache | Daily Texan Staff

During the 2013 African American Legislative Summit, Texas Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, gave the keynote speech at the Community Awards Breakfast — an event recognizing Texas leaders and former members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus

West acknowledged the recipients of the Outstanding Texan Award and members of the audience as individuals who have the talent to create change in society.

“Before we leave here today, I hope that we can work together and say, ‘What is the common agenda that we will accomplish this year? How will we measure it to see exactly what we have done? How will we use these talents we were blessed with?’” West said in his speech. 

The TLBC hosted the Summit, which lasted from Sunday to Tuesday. The theme, “the building of our community starts with me,” was applied throughout panel discussions examining critical issues in African-American communities, and was present throughout the awards breakfast. The group recognized 21 Outstanding Texans and former members of the TLBC for their contributions to Texas communities.

West filled in last minute for the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was set to deliver the keynote speech before Monday’s weather resulted in a flight delay. Sharpton is a civil rights activist and the president of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization. Sharpton also hosts “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton” on MSNBC.

West said it was an honor to be able to give the speech in Sharpton’s place.

“You can see I’m not Al Sharpton, and I’m not the chairperson or anything like that, but to be asked by my members to deliver the keynote speech, I felt honored,” West said.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, honored former TLBC members by sharing their contributions to Texas history and the impact they made to the state of Texas.

“We have a lot to look forward to and one of the greatest things that we can do is to keep adding to the history that we have,” Thompson said.

Breakfast attendee Marilyn Lee of Kileen said she appreciates the work done by current and prior members of the Texas Legislature and the TLBC because they have been diligent in their work for the people of Texas.

“They encourage us to go back and get involved, and to make things better for all of our young people,” Lee said.

Over the two days she attended the Summit, Lee said she has been inspired to walk her faith and serve her community by making herself more available to serve the public.

“I will go back to my community and become more involved in community service,” Lee said. “Today taught me that you have to come out of your comfort zone and use your God-given gift or skill to be a leader, because your purpose is to serve others.”

Published on February 27, 2013 as "Summit addresses black issues".