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Wentworth Temporarily Pulls Down Campus Carry Bill

After his bill received heated debate on the floor, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, withdrew his campus carry bill today.

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After heated debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, temporarily withdrew his campus carry bill today.

The bill, Senate Bill 354, would allow those with concealed handgun licenses to carry guns on college and university campuses. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved it last week. Thirteen Republican senators co-authored the bill, and more than 75 representatives have signed onto a similar House bill.  

Proponents of the bill say it will allow students to protect themselves and prevent massacres like the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. Wentworth said the law would only affect adults on campuses because individuals must be at least 21 years old to hold the concealed handgun license.

Opponents of the bill — including University of Texas president William Powers Jr., and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa — argue that allowing people to carry concealed guns on campus would create a less-safe environment, leading to more accidental and self-inflicted shootings and confusion among law enforcement.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said he would not back the bill as proposed because it was too inconsistent. Wentworth's bill would allow private colleges to opt out of the campus carry bill, and he said he would not accept an amendment that would allow public universities to do the same. Ogden said there is no way to argue a campus would be safer if so few people have a concealed handgun license.

Wentworth said he had the support of 21 senators before the bill was brought up today, but he was short as Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and Mario Gallegos Jr., D-Houston, backed out.

Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, offered an amendment, which Wentworth accepted, that would allow the campuses of primary and secondary schools that are located within universities to be exempt from the bill. Lucio requested time to review the bill and possibly file an amendment to exempt the entire campus, not just the priimary or secondary school.

Wentworth said he is "hopeful and optimistic" that his bill will have enough votes when the Senate takes up the issue again on Monday.

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