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Texas State Senators are moving ahead with a controversial bill that would allow students to carry concealed handguns on the state’s college campuses. The bill, SB 354, if passed, would make Texas the second state after Utah to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses. Nine other states, including Arizona, have introduced bills to allow guns on college campuses this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Survivors of campus violence offered emotional pleas during their testimony before the Texas state senate’s committee on criminal justice. Survivors of the 1966 University of Texas shooting were joined with John Woods, who was a student at Virginia Tech during the 2007 massacre that left 33 dead including Woods’ girlfriend. “My feeling is we have a Second Amendment in this country for a reason, but as the Supreme Court has said very clearly, that doesn’t mean that you can take your gun with you anywhere you want,” Woods testified.
Proponents of the legislation, however, say students should be the ones to decide. “We don’t understand why people lose this option for personal protection when they step onto a college campus,” Daniel Crocker of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus told The Texas Tribune. Supporters of the bill also note that in the majority of cases, a person must be 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon meaning only upper classmen, faculty, and staff would be able to bring a gun on campus. But, there is an ongoing lawsuit in Texas, supported by the National Rifle Association, that seeks to reduce the license age minimum to 18.
The legislation would grant private universities discretion as to whether they allow guns on campus, but Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, has said he will try to amend the legislation to give public university officials the same choice. A majority of lawmakers in the Texas House favor the measure, and the bill, in some form is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, according to officials. The legislation comes only months after a shooting scare at the University of Texas, in which a student brought an assault rifle to campus and eventually killed himself.
Woods doesn’t believe that having more guns on campus would have prevented the tragedy at Virginia Tech. “She was one of the brightest, most energetic, good-hearted people I’ve ever met,” Woods said of girlfriend Maxine Turner, who he had been dating for six months before she was killed. “I loved her, and I never told her that, so I’m putting it on the record here today.”
A vote was not taken following the testimony but is expected this week.