Wentworth Gets a Win for Campus Carry

Sen. Jeff Wentworth is relentless, and today, the San Antonio Republican got his way.

Wentworth finally got his campus carry bill successfully tacked onto legislation — this time a bill by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, that would reform methods of finance for public and higher education institutions. The measure is turning into a virtual Christmas Tree for amendments. 

Wentworth's measure would would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry on university campuses. Wentworth filed his own bill, SB 354, to do so, but he could not secure enough votes to bring the legislation up for debate on the Senate floor. Over the last couple of weeks, he repeatedly tried to tack a similar amendment onto a bill by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to eliminate some college reporting requirements and reduce administrative costs. But Zaffirini killed her own bill after Wentworth's amendment passed.

Zaffirini got her own reporting bill tacked onto Ogden's measure today, before Wentworth offered his amendment. Then the two senators went at it, with Zaffirini asking Wentworth if he was aware of the 1966 Charles Whitman shooting on the University of Texas campus, and Wentworth countering that he was there when it happened. Zaffirini was there, too. Wentworth then pointed to the Virginia Tech shooting to support his view that campus carry would protect students.

Zaffirini argued the amendment could possibly cost millions of dollars to universities over the years. "This is clearly an unfunded mandate," she said, citing costs for additional storage for weapons, insurance, security and law enforcement. But Wentworth said his amendment would make the state liable if universities raise insurance rates because students are allowed to carry guns on campus, and universities would at most have to pay for extra storage space.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, asked Wentworth how the amendment was germane to the fiscal matters bill, causing the Senate to recess for about 30 minutes. When they returned, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wentworth's amendment was only relevant because Zaffirini's amendment had made it so. 

Davis offered an amendment to Wentworth's amendment that would allow the universities' boards of regents to opt in or out of concealed carry on campus. Wentworth was able to table her amendment with a 19-12 vote. Wentworth's amendment then prevailed with a 21-10 vote.

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, tried to reconsider Zaffirini's amendment, but because Wentworth's already passed, he pulled it down.

Ogden's bill passed 19-12 with the campus carry amendment.

Wentworth said afterward he is more hopeful today than he was a couple of hours ago. "When I submitted my amendment, I told them to hold it and submit it only after Senator Zaffirini's amendment was adopted," he said. "The fact is that without that, it would not have [passed]." 

 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.