The Big Conversation:
Drawing a stark contrast with the intensifying national debate over tighter gun laws, Texas has moved a step closer to allowing weapons on its public school campuses.
On Tuesday, the same day the White House expressed support for the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, state Rep.-elect Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said he would introduce a bill next year to allow public school teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus.
The legislation would let Texas schools to appoint a faculty member as a so-called school marshal, who would receive training and certification to be able to "use lethal force upon the occurrence of an attack in the classroom or elsewhere on campus," according to a press release.
"Unfortunately, law enforcement personnel cannot be everywhere at all times," Villalba said in a statement. "We need to talk very frankly about how we can protect our children if the unthinkable should occur."
Villalba's announcement came a day after Gov. Rick Perry joined a group of Texas Republicans calling for an expansion, not restriction, of gun rights in Texas.
As the Austin American-Statesman reports, state lawmakers may also use the renewed focus on gun rights and school safety to push through a law that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
"I’d be surprised if the campus-carry bill doesn’t come up again, and it may pass," said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. "To say that [concealed handgun license] holders increase the likelihood of violence on college campuses is nuts. Right now, its only the bad guys who have guns on campuses — and there’s some sentiment that if someone would have had a gun, they could have put a stop to the tragedy."
Texas, however, isn't the only state in which politicians have responded to the Connecticut massacre by attempting to broaden gun rights. In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday said it was "time to have a discussion" about arming school officials, and in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich expressed support for simplifying the process to be able to carry concealed weapons.
- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, today will unveil school choice legislation that has the potential to spark the marquee education battle in next year's legislative session, the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports. Details of the legislation haven't been released, but the bill is expected to include private schools vouchers, which face opposition from education groups and even some of Patrick's fellow Republicans.
- The state's Sunset Advisory Commission, which monitors the effectiveness of state agencies, will hold a public hearing today on one of the biggest issues facing the state's Railroad Commission: its name. Lawmakers next year will likely consider whether to change the name of the agency, which regulates oil and gas, to the Texas Energy Resources Commission and will look at whether the agency needs more regulatory power. Previous efforts to change the agency's name — to the Texas Oil and Gas Commission, for instance — have failed.
- U.S. Rep.-elect Joaquin Castro and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro appeared on Charlie Rose this week to discuss gun laws in the wake of the Connecticut shooting, Hispanic voters and 2016. Watch the full interview here.
"I haven't driven on a street in many, many years, but I have been able to drive this truck on my ranch." — George W. Bush on a truck of his that will be auctioned off
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