After a long day of debate and passionate public testimony from both sides, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee has voted to recommend that the Texas Senate pass both SB 11, the “campus carry” bill, and SB 17, the “open carry” bill. Both bills now head to the full Texas Senate for consideration. The vote came just before 6:00 pm Central Time on Thursday.
The vote was 7-2, on partisan lines, for both bills, with the two Democrats on the committee, Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) voting against. Republicans on the committee who voted in favor of the bills are Committee Chair Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown).
The vote was not surprising, since the authors of both bills, Birdwell for SB 11 and Estes for SB 17, were both on the committee, and Creighton, Estes, Fraser, Nelson, Schwertner signed on to co-author SB 11, and Birdwell, Creighton, and Nelson co-sponsored SB 17, Moreover, Second Amendment rights have long been a plank in the Republican Party of Texas’ platform, and support for gun rights polls strongly in Texas.
Both bills are, in essence, an expansion of the state’s current regulations for concealed handgun licenses (CHL). Some gun rights activists have advocated for “constitutional carry,” or allowing people to carry guns without the need for a license, but that approach was not adopted by the authors of either of these bills.
SB 17 would allow those who have qualified for a CHL to also carry a handgun openly, in a belt or shoulder holster. Current Texas law allow the open carry of long guns like shotguns and rifles.
SB 11 would allow those who have qualified for a CHL to carry their guns inside campus buildings. Current law allows CHL holders to carry on campus, but they are not permitted to bring their weapons inside. Texas law restricts CHLs to American citizens who are 21 years of age or older (or qualified military veterans), and there are additional requirements for a background check and safety and proficiency training. The majority of college students would be too young or otherwise unable to qualify for a CHL under these restrictions.
The committee also approved an amendment to SB 11, to clarify that it was not allowing open carry in campus buildings, only concealed carry.
As Breitbart Texas reported, the Chancellors of both the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System both weighed in on SB 11, on opposite sides. William McRaven, the UT Chancellor, wrote a letter opposing the bill, whereas TAMU Chancellor John Sharp wrote a letter stating that while TAMU was not taking an official position in support of the bill, they were also not opposing it.
“Having licensed gun owners in possession of legal weapons on our campuses does not raise safety concerns for me personally,” Sharp wrote. “The real question is this: ‘Do I trust my students, faculty and staff to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home?’ Of course I do!”
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