Texplainer: Who Would Be Allowed to Carry on Campus?

Hey, Texplainer: If lawmakers pass a campus carry bill this session, who will be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus?

One of the repeated observations made by supporters of bills like San Antonio Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth's Senate Bill 354, which is being heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee today, is that only those with concealed handgun licenses, or CHLs, would benefit from the law.

In Texas, to successfully apply for a CHL, individuals must be 21 years old, have no criminal background, be of sound mind with no chemical dependencies, and be up to date on all taxes and legally required fees. Given the age requirement, only upperclassman, graduate students, faculty, staff and older members of the public would be able to carry on campus (There’s an exception for members or former members of the military, who only need to be 18.)

“We don’t understand why people lose this option for personal protection when they step onto a college campus,” says Daniel Crocker of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

One point of concern raised by opponents of bills like Wentworth’s are ongoing Texas lawsuits, supported by the National Rifle Association, which seek to remove restrictions preventing people who are at least 18 years old from purchasing firearms and acquiring CHLs. If they are successful, they could open up the concealed carry option to nearly the entire campus.

Dan Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says, "We believe that the Texas Legislature and governor were correct in enacting a law that prohibits teenagers from carrying a loaded weapon in public." A brief put together by his and like-minded organizations argues that young people lack adults' ability to govern impulsive judgments and behaviors.

“Those are not our lawsuits,” Crocker says of the NRA's efforts. “What we say is that whatever your state says is the requirement to get a concealed carry permit, then you should have that same option on campus."

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who filed a version of concealed campus legislation in the House, says he doesn’t expect any significant change to current law. “I haven’t pushed for 18,” he says. “For now, we are focused on these bills and getting the public comfortable with that.”

Opponents, like John Woods, a doctoral student at the University of Texas and survivor of the infamous 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, fear that younger individuals — including those with CHLs — are more prone to act out than their older individuals. “These bills will not make our campuses safer,” he told the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee when it heard testimony on the issue.

Meanwhile, Crocker notes that there have been no major gun-related incidents among the 2 percent of the nation’s college students who can currently pack concealed heat on campus — none of whom are in Texas, obviously.

If you are curious about whether or not age matters, play around with the interactive chart below, which features data from the Texas Department of Public Safety on CHLs issued, suspended and revoked for each age during each of the last 10 years. Each bubble represents an age from 18 to 100; they can be manipulated by changing the color and size, as well as the horizontal and/or vertical axis to reflect any of the variables. As you will see, suspensions and revocations do tend to skew younger than issuances — though, it's important to note that licenses can be taken away for reasons that have nothing to do with firearm use or management.

Bottom line: Only the oldest undergraduates and their elders will be able to carry on campus — at least, for now.

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