“Texans are a bunch of gun-toting nutjobs”– it’s one of the most pervasive stereotypes about Texas out there, and it’s one that most of us try to dispel whenever we meet people from out-of-state. But unfortunately for Texans, the 84th Legislature seems to view the “gun-toting nutjob” stereotype as a badge of pride rather than a negative stereotype, and they’ve been working hard to show everyone just how much they love guns. This week, the Texas House passed a bill “requiring public universities to allow concealed handguns on campus.” That means guns may soon be allowed in college cafeterias, dorms, and classrooms.
The bill was passed just minutes before the House’s midnight deadline, after a long and hard fight from Democrats to try and run out the clock on the legislation. Though House Republicans tried to change the rules to extend the deadline and get more of their bills through, they were unable to do so. Republican reps. Sarah Davis (Houston) and Rick Galindo (San Antonio) voted with Democrats to successfully stop the rule change attempt. That left two terrible bills on the agenda for the night–campus carry, and the bill to stop private insurers from covering abortion. It also left Democrats with the task of delaying votes on each until the deadline to try and protect Texans from more guns and fewer options for reproductive healthcare.
Democrats were able to delay voting until close to midnight by adding over 100 amendments to the campus carry bill to prolong debate. But they voluntarily withdrew them 20 minutes before midnight in order to let a heavily weakened version of the bill pass. Some have criticized the move, but Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) explained to the Austin American-Statesman that Republicans were preparing to “employ a rarely used maneuver to cut off debate with a motion that had already lined up agreement from the required 25 House members.” They were also planning to try and put the original, uncompromised version up for a vote, which would have endangered the amendments Democrats had successfully put in to try and somewhat neutralize the bill’s harmful effects.
So what were the compromises that had Rep. Jonathan Stickland tweeting that the campus carry bill was too “watered down” for his tastes? (Side note: Stickland also complained about the abortion bill being killed. This should serve as encouragement for Dems–if you’re doing something that makes Jonathan Stickland throw a tantrum on Twitter, you must be doing something right.) There are two main “tweaks” of note:
- Gun-free zones: The bill included a provision that allows universities’ trustees to vote to declare portions of campus off-limit to guns. Sadly, they aren’t able to vote to declare the entire campus off-limits, but it’s better than nothing.
- Private universities must follow the same rules as public:The other major change that went through in the House bill was the provision that requires private universities to follow the same campus carry rules as public ones. In the Senate version, private universities could opt out of campus carry entirely. But now, they must also opt-in. While this may seem like a bad thing, it could actually be a good one–now the wealthy and powerful individuals in charge of Texas’ private universities have a stake in campus carry, and they could very well start exerting pressure on the Legislature to try and stop the bills from becoming law.
Campus carry is now going to head to a conference committee, where the House and Senate will try to reconcile their versions of the bill into a final one.
While Texas House Democrats may have scored a (very) mild victory, and are going to keep up the fight, let’s be clear about one thing: Legalizing campus carry is an incredibly dangerous move for Texas students. If Bill McRaven, the chancellor of the UT system, who also happens to have overseen the raid that killed Osama bin Laden (so he knows just a little bit about guns), opposes your bill, perhaps you ought to reconsider. Republicans might like to say that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but allowing concealed carry of firearms on campus means that it’s easier for everyone to bring their guns to school, including those bad guys with guns. What’s more, there doesn’t even to be a “bad guy” with a gun for campus carry to endanger lives. From 2005 to 2010, nearly 3,800 people lost their lives in the United States due to unintentional shootings. With campus carry, it becomes a lot more likely for those accidents to start happening at UT or A& M or Texas State than it would be without any guns on campus at all.
So thanks again, Republicans of the Texas Legislature. Not only have you made it tougher for me to defend Texas’ reputation when I leave the state, but in your zeal for guns, you’ve gleefully put the lives of thousands of students at risk.