State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said he is "disappointed and frustrated" that Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, has not scheduled a hearing for his bill to allow people with concealed handgun licenses to carry firearms in college campus buildings.
"But I'm not backing up, and I’m not giving up," Birdwell said on Wednesday.
Campus carry legislation has not been successful in the last two legislative sessions. But Birdwell said that this time he and other supporters have worked hard to address concerns raised by senators during discussions on previous bills. Whitmire allowed some of those bills to make it to the Senate floor for a vote, but so far he has not set a hearing for Senate Bill 182, and has indicated he has no intention to.
On Wednesday, Whitmire permitted a committee vote on a bill by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, that would allow handguns to be stored in vehicles in campus parking lots. The measure passed. Some observers have speculated that Birdwell could attempt to attach his bill to Hegar's as an amendment, but Birdwell said he has no plan to do that.
"I need to take this fight on my own," he said. "I don’t want to, in amending his bill, cause him any difficulty that would jeopardize his bill passing."
Even without using someone else's bill as a vehicle, Birdwell said there are some options remaining to keep campus carry alive. There is a companion bill by state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, that is sitting in the House Calendars Committee, though Birdwell noted that it has been amended so that it is not as strong as he would like.
If Fletcher's bill makes it out of the House and over to the Senate, Birdwell said, it is possible it could get referred to a comittee other than Whitmire's. And if it comes to it, Birdwell could attempt to have his bill moved to a different committee.
That would be up to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
"He said this is a priority," Birdwell said, "and I take him at his word."
Birdwell also said he hasn't given up on the possibility that Whitmire could change his mind and allow a hearing, in which case Birdwell is confident he has the votes to pass the bill out of committee.
No matter what, the senator insisted that he would not let up on his efforts.
"I may lose gloriously. Don't want to. Don't desire to. But this is a God-given, constitutional right," Birdwell said. "We're going to keep fighting for it, because it's worth it."
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