AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate has officially passed SB 11, the “campus carry” legislation that would expand the state’s concealed handgun license (CHL) rights to allow CHL holders to also carry their guns into certain buildings on Texas’ public colleges and universities. The bill passed its third and final reading on Thursday in the Senate, a move that was cheered by Senate Republicans, who are hopeful that their colleagues in the House will pass the bill as well.
SB 11 was authored by State Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), and passed on a party-line vote, with the 20 Republican Senators voting for it, and the 11 Democrats voting against it. The bill had been recommended by the Senate State Affairs Committee back in February, also on a partisan vote, as Breitbart Texas reported.
Because SB 11 is based on Texas’ existing laws for CHL holders, only those who are 21 years of age or older or an active duty member of the military or veteran will potentially be eligible to carry a gun on campus. The other CHL requirements — a criminal background check, payment of an application fee, and completion of a safety course and proficiency test — mean that the number of college students who could potentially be allowed to carry a gun on campus is a small minority of the student body.
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!”
After SB 11 had passed, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) released a statement saying that he “applauded Senator Brian Birdwell’s leadership” in getting SB 11 passed, as well as the work of several other Senators in advancing gun rights legislation.
“The Texas Senate today, preliminarily passed the third bill that expands and protects Second Amendment Right legislation in a historic way,” said Patrick. “With the passage of Senate Bill 17 (SB 17) by Sen. Craig Estes, Senate Bill 273 (SB 273) by Sen. Donna Campbell and SB 11 by Sen. Birdwell, the Texas Senate sends a clear message, that our Second Amendment Right remains strong.”
“I am proud of the fact that the Texas Senate is making history while defending life, liberty and our Second Amendment Right,” concluded Patrick.
Birdwell told Breitbart Texas that he was proud of the hard work that the Senate had put into this legislation. SB 11 passed on a party line vote, as expected, but only after hours of discussion — both before the Senate State Affairs Committee and when the bill was being debated by the full Senate. During these long hours, Birdwell frequently thanked those who voiced their opinion and shared information on the bill, even when they disagreed with him, acknowledging his fellow Senators and members of the public who offered testimony for respectfully participating in the debate.
“Today the Texas Senate took a major step forward in affirming the rights of CHL-holders—the most law-abiding demographic of our population,” said Birdwell. “We’ve worked hard on this legislation, and I’m excited that the legislature is one step closer to passing it and treating our CHL-holders like the adults they are.”
As Breitbart Texas reported, records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety dating back to 1996 show that CHL holders make up less than one-half of one percent of all criminal convictions in the entire state every year.
Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), a joint author of the bill, said that legislators had an “obligation to make sure Texas and her law-abiding citizens are safe” in a statement provided to Breitbart Texas. “There is no such thing as a ‘gun-free’ zone,” he said. “That is why twenty-three other states that have passed concealed carry laws allow license-holders to carry on campus.”
“Having authored similar campus carry measures in the past, it is a pleasure to be a joint author of Senate Bill 11,” continued Creighton. “Its Senate passage today reaffirms the right of Texas CHL-holders to self-defense on college campuses. Our faculty, staff, and students deserve a fighting chance to protect themselves from bad actors intent on doing harm.”
Senator Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) also cheered her Senate colleagues’ efforts to protect gun rights. “This week, the Texas Senate made strides toward restoring our Second Amendment rights,” Burton told Breitbart Texas. “Senate Bill 17 and 11 passed, and I was proud to support both. Open carry and campus carry are both important restorations and I plan on continuing the work still ahead to fully restore our God given Second Amendment rights.”
SB 11 now awaits action by the Texas House, where the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee recently heard public testimony on it and SB 17, the open carry bill, as Breitbart Texas reported. The House Committee is expected to vote on their recommendations for these two bills within the next two weeks, a required step before the bills can advance for a possible debate and vote on the House floor.
Breitbart Texas will continue to follow the progress of these gun rights bills in the Texas Legislature.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.