Campus gun bill sent to Gov. Abbott

7:09 p.m Sunday, May 31, 2015 Local

The Texas House gave final approval Sunday to allowing concealed handguns to be carried into dorms, classrooms and other public university buildings.

Senate Bill 11, approved 98-47, next goes to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has already said he will sign any legislation that expands gun rights.

The Senate on Saturday approved the same measure, which exempts private colleges and universities from having to allow guns in campus buildings.

SB 11 would give public university presidents the authority to prohibit guns in certain areas of campus. Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said Saturday that the gun-free zones must be extremely limited in size and scope, but a House Democrat disputed that characterization Sunday.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio and a member of the conference committee that worked out the final version of SB 11, told House members that the proposed law permits gun-free zones that are more permissive than Birdwell had indicated.

SB 11 allows university presidents to create gun policies based on “specific safety considerations and the uniqueness of the campus environment.” Those policies can be amended as necessary for campus safety, the bill says.

“We will have a patchwork of policies that fit the uniqueness of the campuses,” Martinez Fisher said.

The proposed law takes effect on Aug. 1, 2016, although community and junior colleges have until Aug. 1, 2017 to set gun rules.

Only concealed handguns would be allowed on campuses, and only those with a handgun license — available to those who are at least 21 years old, with limited exceptions — could carry weapons on campus.

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