Supporters and opponents of allowing concealed handguns on college campuses packed a House committee room today where a number of bills that would allow it were being discussed.
Supporters argued that allowing properly trained concealed handgun licensees to carry their handguns on campus is a constitutional right and a matter of personal safety. Opponents said allowing guns on campus would only make campuses less safe.
The two sides went back and forth throughout the afternoon, as the list of people waiting to testify grew.
John Woods, director of the University of Texas chapter of Students for Gun-Free Schools, testified that he was a student at Virginia Tech in 2007 and lost friends and loved ones during the shooting. Woods said neither he nor any survivor of that shooting supports allowing concealed handguns on campus.
“These bills are about an ideological agenda, not about campus safety,” Woods said.
Scott Lewis, a community college student and the Texas legislative director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, told lawmakers that when concealed carry laws were first drafted, places like churches, government meetings and college campuses were off limits, for fear things would go wrong and people would be hurt.
“Over the years, [as] we’ve seen that things haven’t gone totally wrong ... we’ve whittled down that list,” Lewis said.
Lewis also referenced the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, saying it has motivated him and others to advocate for concealed handguns on campus. But Lewis said it is not just the rare campus shooting that he worries about. Violent crimes happen on the way to and from campus, he said.
“We are not trying to create an amateur security force. We are suggesting that individuals be given the means to protect themselves,” he said.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told the committee that while he is a strong supporter of responsible gun ownership and of the Second Amendment, he opposes the bills. Acevedo said he would support some sort of compromise that would allow individuals to have handguns in their cars but is against allowing college students, who he said are not known for their responsibility, to bring their concealed handguns on campus.
“The last thing we want to introduce in the college environment — kind of like a bar — is a gun,” Acevedo said.