Four days after a student was stabbed to death and three others were injured at the University of Texas, the Texas House is set Friday to debate and vote on a bill that would remove knives from the list of illegal weapons in state law.
The timing is unfortunate, but it is not expected to delay consideration of House Bill 1935, said the bill’s author, Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock.
“It is definitely unfortunate what happened at UT, and our hearts go out to those folks at the university,” Frullo said Thursday, adding that he expects the bill to be amended to extend additional protections to college campuses and other areas.
As currently written, SB 1935 — which has three Republicans and three Democrats as co-authors — would remove a section of state law that defines illegal knives as those with a blade longer than 5½ inches, daggers, Bowie knives and knives designed to be thrown, as well as spears and swords.
The bill also would:
• Remove knives from the list of weapons that it is illegal to sell or provide to those younger than age 18.
• Give public schools the discretion to expel students who bring a knife to school or to a school-sponsored event.
Law enforcement described the weapon used in Monday’s fatal attack at UT as a Bowie knife with a blade longer than 5½ inches, placing greater attention on a bill that has thus far made few waves at the Capitol.
Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, is a co-author of HB 1935. He said Frullo, aware of the sensitive nature of debating the bill so soon after the UT knife attacks, discussed making changes to bring HB 1935 closer to the way Texas treats guns and other weapons.
“My hope is that we’re able to treat this as we treat other weapons, in terms of places where you don’t care to have them,” Moody said, “It would just bring consistency with other weapons laws that we have, and consistency is important.”
Texas generally prohibits guns in courtrooms, hospitals, nursing homes, amusement parks and polling places during elections.
It was unclear how HB 1935 could be amended to regulate knives similar to guns on college campuses. Texas law allows concealed guns can be carried into most public university dorms, classrooms and other buildings by those with a state-issued license to carry, which is generally available to those 21 and older.
Frullo said the final language on planned amendments had not yet been worked out but added that he is working toward one goal. “We want to make sure public education and higher education are protected just as well after this becomes law than they are today. We don’t want to take any of those protections away,” he said.
Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said she and Frullo discussed potential changes to the knife bill Thursday in light of the UT attacks.
Even if university protections can be added, however, Howard said she had a difficult time imagining changes that would make HB 1935 acceptable.
“I’m really waiting to see the final version, but at this point in time, I’m not inclined to (vote in favor),” she said. “I don’t see any reason for that (change).”