After weeks of intense argument and high emotions, controversial legislation that would allow concealed handguns in buildings on college campuses won approval Monday in the Texas House by a 102-41 vote.
But the measure is different than its original version, allowing state and private schools to decide on their own whether to allow guns, and even so, it still might not pass the Texas Senate.
Under the final House version of House Bill 972, legal concealed weapons are not automatically allowed in dormitories, classrooms and other campus buildings, as proponents had initially wanted. Instead, public colleges and universities can decide whether to prohibit guns on their campuses and private schools can decide whether they want to allow them on theirs.
The measure does prohibit concealed handgun licensees from being charged with a serious crime if they are caught with their concealed pistol on a no-gun campus — a provision that supporters said was an important step forward from current law.
An amendment to the bill Monday gives the president of a university or college the authority to decide whether to permit concealed weapons, with input from students, faculty, administrators, law enforcement and a school’s board of regents. The decision has to be ratified each year, according to state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress.
“This is good legislation for the good people of Texas,” he told the House just before the final vote was taken.
With the House bill now headed to the Senate, few in the upper chamber gave it much chance for passage in the last three weeks of the session, despite strong support among conservatives in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Whispers for days have suggested that the bill might be assigned not to the Criminal Justice Committee, where the chairman has stalled passage of a Senate version, but instead to the Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.
“I’d welcome it, if that’s the decision,” said the committee’s chairman, Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, a Second Amendment supporter. “Will it pass the Senate? I don’t know.”
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, an opponent of campus carry, said enough senators might be found to pass the bill, if enough Republicans and Democrats can come together.
“But I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Current law prohibits concealed weapons inside college and university buildings, unless the campus specifically permits them — as Texas A&M University has done. In the past, University of Texas officials have opposed such a move.