AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Senate, along a party-line vote, gave preliminary approval to the “Campus Carry Bill” which would allow people with a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry a concealed handgun on public campuses of colleges and universities. The bill withstood a five hour floor debate and then more than two-dozen amendments. The preliminary vote came with a 20-11 vote.
State Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) authored the Campus Carry legislation (SB 11), which will allow all CHL holders the opportunity to carry concealed handguns on the campuses of Texas’ public universities and colleges.
When questioned about his purpose for authoring the bill, Birdwell explained that his concern was to “expand the freedom of our most trustworthy citizens” to have access “to the property they already own,” and not to just increase the number of guns, as some of the opponents to the bill had claimed. “Freedom is always precious,” he added, citing the U.S. and Texas Constitutions and their protections for gun rights.
After public hearings earlier in the session, the bill was brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote on Wednesday.
Democrat senators spent several hours bringing questions to Sen. Birdwell. Many of the questions dealt with issues currently covered by Texas CHL laws. The purpose of this bill is only to remove the restriction on carrying on colleges and universities that are owned by the people of Texas.
Twenty-five amendments were offered to the bill. Most of the amendments were voted down along party lines.
“Students have expressed concerns to me about their ability to protect themselves,” said Sen. Birdwell. “It’s time we don’t imperil their safety.”
One grassroots activist who supported the bill asked Breitbart Texas why Democrats seem so obsessed with preventing a woman’s right to choose how to defend herself while on a college campus.
Democrats seemed concerned about making things against the law that were already against the law. One senator expressed concern about college students drinking and carrying a concealed firearm. Birdwell reminded them that the law currently prohibits any CHL holder from carrying a firearm while intoxicated.
Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) mentioned to Birdwell that several university presidents had claimed that passing campus carry would cost them millions of dollars in extra security and enforcement costs. Birdwell said that they had asked the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) about that issue, and the LBB had found that there would be “no significant cost,” rejecting the universities’ claims and pointing out that they had made no such claims of financial impact during past sessions when similar legislation was proposed. Birdwell again pointed out the well-established record that CHL holders have been “exceedingly disciplined and well behaved.”
Regardless of whether there would be a financial impact, Birdwell called this concern “improperly placed,” because “a fundamental right granted by our creator is not subject to financial speculation by our universities.”
Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) commended Birdwell for his work on the bill and made a similar point, that the cost that is important to consider is not monetary, but rather the cost to human lives. Creighton mentioned the shooting at Virginia Tech University, saying, “at the end of the day, someone’s Second Amendment right was denied and they were not allowed to defend themselves…that’s the cost that we should be talking about when it comes to burden vs. benefit.”
One Democrat senator expressed that he did not feel students could be trusted to follow that law, but he was not able to cite any examples of current CHL holding students being arrested for breaking the current laws while off campus.
Other Democrats expressed concern about hospitals that are on college and university campuses. Again, Senator Birdwell reminded them that the law prohibiting carrying a firearm into a hospital was not being changed.
In a somewhat humorous moment, Senator Jose Rodriquez (D-El Paso) reminded his fellow senators about the efforts of the town marshals in the Wild West to keep guns out of town. He talked about the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral in Dodge City where the Earps and Doc Holiday fired upon the cowboys who would not give up their guns. Unfortunately, the O.K. Corral shootout happened in Tombstone, Arizona, not Dodge City, Kansas. It also was not on a college campus.
In the end, Democrat senators acknowledged there were enough votes to pass the bill. Prior attempts to pass the bill in the Senate failed because of the 2/3rds rule that was changed at the beginning of this session, as Breitbart Texas reported. The rule was changed to require twenty votes to bring a bill to the floor and not twenty-one as was the requirement in the past.
Final passage is expected to come on Thursday when Senator Birdwell will present the bill for final passage.
Bob Price is a senior political writer for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.