Allowing students to bring guns to college could cost universities a pretty penny in insurance premiums — one of the hitches that is keeping the campus-carry bill stalled in the Texas Senate.
Though university officials say safety is their primary concern with state Sen. Jeff Wentworth's bill that would allow guns on campus, the potential insurance price tag comes at a time when lawmakers are already mulling serious budget cuts in higher education.
The Houston Community College Board of Trustees passed a resolution this month strongly urging lawmakers to vote against allowing concealed handguns on campus. Along with safety concerns, the letter states that there could be a “fiscal burden.” That burden includes a possible increase in liability insurance payments: They could rise by as much as $780,000 to $900,000 per year, said Dan Arguijo, spokesman for Houston Community College.
Arguijo said college officials spoke with current and past insurers about how allowing concealed handguns on campus would affect their insurance rates. Houston Community College's current insurer said it would wait to see the actual language of the bill before talking of raising rates. The school's former insurance company said it would raise rates between 15 and 25 percent.
"If it is passed, then there is really no funding for this,” Arguijo said.
Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said he doesn't believe claims that liability insurance premiums would rise if his bill passed. Wentworth said he talked with insurance agents and with officials in Utah and Colorado — both states allow some form of campus carry — and nobody has mentioned the theory about rising insurance premiums.
“I have challenged administrators to bring to me an insurance company's estimate to them of how they will increase their premiums if this bill were to pass and nobody has,” Wentworth said.
Steve Johnson, spokesman for the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said every college's "risk mix" is different. But the possibility of increased costs is reason enough to allow colleges to opt in or out of allowing concealed handguns on campus, he said.
That is not yet a compromise Wentworth is willing to make. And he still doesn't have the votes to bring the bill up on the Senate floor, partly due to a withdrawal of support by Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr., D-Houston.
Gallegos said he voted for a similar piece of legislation in 2009, but this time around he has been flooded with requests to vote against it. He said he also talked to officials at various colleges and universities in his district, including Houston Community College, which expressed concern over the measure.
“What’s embedded in this bill, and is not being told,” Gallegos said, "is the unfunded mandate that this bill produces."