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Government/Politics

Texas Senate Approves Bill That Allows Guns In College Classrooms

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Flickr user David Trawin (trawin)
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SB 11 would allow students and faculty with a conceal carry handgun license to bring their weapons onto a college campus.

The Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to a measure that would add handguns to the list of items students are allowed to carry in their college backpacks. An initial vote on the bill went down along party lines 20 to 11, with the Republican majority holding strong.

Currently, college students and faculty that have a license to carry their concealed handguns in public are not allowed to carry them on many state college campuses. The bill by Granbury Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell would allow these licensed gun owners to carry their handgun and textbooks in the same backpack while on a state college campus.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
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Granbury Republican Sen. Bryan Birdwell, author of the Senate's concealed carry handgun bill.

“Senate Bill 11 will not impact the places a CHL holder cannot already go if such a location is on the ground of a Higher Education facility,” explained Birdwell.

Places that are already part of a banned locations list for gun owners would still exist under Birdwell’s bill, which includes venues that host major sporting events and large gatherings, and any places on campus that sell alcohol.

An amendment by Republican Sen. Joan Huffman was added to the bill. It would make openly holstering your handgun while walking on a college campus a crime.  During a debate of the bill, Huffman attempted to address some of the reservations Austin Democrat Kirk Watson had about the bill. Here’s a look at how that conversation went.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
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Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson raised concerns that Birdwell's bill would've created a loophole the state penal code for those caught with an open holstered handgun.

Huffman: “So my new amendment, there will be a new enforcement mechanism.”

Watson: “So you agree currently the way it [the bill] is currently worded, that there would not be an enforcement division, but you’re looking to create an enforcement division?”

Huffman: “Absolutely.”

Other Democrats, like Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis, called the bill an unfunded mandate, pointing to statements made by six university systems in Texas that estimated that the bill would result in a $59 billion increase in spending on added security measures related to the presence of guns on campus.

State colleges would be exempt from assuming liability during a shooting involving a gunman with a concealed carry license on campus. There will be one more procedural vote before sending the bill over to the House.