Campus Carry Headed to Conference Committee

Significant changes limiting the reach of legislation requiring Texas universities to allow concealed handguns on campus may be in danger as House and Senate lawmakers work out their differences on the bill.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, during a debate over his campus carry bill, SB 11, on March 18, 2015.

Significant changes limiting the reach of legislation requiring Texas universities to allow concealed handguns on campus may be in danger as House and Senate lawmakers work out their differences on the bill. 

Senate Bill 11 narrowly avoided becoming a casualty of a key midnight deadline on Tuesday after House lawmakers brokered a last-minute deal to accept several amendments.

In the Senate on Thursday, the bill's author, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, requested a conference committee on the legislation to work out differences between the two chambers. 

The Granbury Republican said he had concerns with language added in the House that would include private universities in the new law. 

"I am duty-bound to protect Second Amendment rights parallel to private property rights," said Birdwell. "We must protect most private property rights equally, and not protect one or the other.”

Lawmakers who argued for requiring private universities to follow the same rules as public institutions say it's a matter of fairness. 

"If we are going to have it, I don’t know how I’m going to make a distinction between my kid who goes to Rice University and one kid at Houston," said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. 

Critics of the proposal have said they hoped including the private universities in the new law would inspire further opposition to the bill.

House lawmakers also added provisions that exempted health facilities and let universities carve out gun-free zones. When the bill originally passed the Senate, Birdwell rejected several amendments attempting similar changes. 

Once members of the committee agree to a compromise, both chambers will have to approve the final version of the bill. Adding this step to the legislative process could open the door for a filibuster of the bill in the waning days of the session. State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, has already said he will filibuster another piece of gun legislation if the opportunity arises.

Abbott, a Republican, has said he would sign any campus carry bill that reaches his desk.

Jim Malewitz contributed reporting to this story.