As a candidate for governor, Republican Greg Abbott proposed allowing universities to opt out of any future law permitting Texans to carry guns on campus.
But now that he’s in office and GOP legislators are pushing bills that don’t give schools a say in the matter, Abbott has shifted his position.
During a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Abbott said he would sign any bill that expands gun rights on campus, whether university administrators can opt out or not.
“I look forward to seeing the way that legislation works its way through both the Senate and the House, and I will sign whatever legislation reaches my desk that expands Second Amendment rights in Texas,” Abbott said.
Asked if that meant he would sign such legislation even without an “opt-out” provision, Abbott said he would sign “whichever” version.
Abbott made a similar shift on so-called open carry laws in November, when he told KTRH-TV in Houston that he supported both proposed versions — one that requires gun holders to have a license and one that lets people openly tote a handgun without a permit. The former is known as “licensed carry.” The latter is called “constitutional carry.”
On the campaign trail, Abbott advocated for requiring Texans who wanted to openly wear pistols on their hips to go through the same training and background checks conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) as concealed handgun license holders.
“Notably, DPS conducts a criminal history record check of the applicant through its computerized criminal history program,” Abbott's proposal said. Under constitutional carry, there would be no required background checks.
On campus carry, Abbott’s plan went into great detail about the need for local control on guns.
“Allowing institutions of higher education to determine for themselves whether to adopt such a policy (by allowing public institutions to opt out of campus carry requirements and by imposing no requirement on private institutions but allowing them to opt in) removes any fear of top-down interference by the state government,” the policy paper said.
State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said she likes the position Abbott took on the campaign trail a lot better than the one she’s hearing from the governor’s office now.
“Why the change of heart here? I don’t quite get that,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be reflective of where he originally was, and it’s certainly not reflective of what I’m hearing from my community, that’s for sure.”
She said parents of college students and university administrators are telling her they want an opt-out provision in any campus carry bill.
“It’s fair to say I’m disappointed in what appears to be a change in his stance,’’ she said.
Allowing Texans to openly carry a handgun without a license — constitutional carry — has hit turbulence in the Texas Legislature. The gun bill that sailed out of a Senate committee last week would require those who openly carry a handgun to be licensed.
On campus carry, the legislation now headed for the Senate floor would force public universities to allow those with permits to carry handguns on campus.