Supporters and opponents of two controversial new gun laws passed last year — one allowing the open carry of handguns and another allowing handguns on public university campuses — will update Texas lawmakers Tuesday on how the measures are working so far.
The Senate State Affairs Committee has invited activists, law enforcement officers and six university system chancellors to speak at the hearing, which will take place at 9 a.m. in the Senate chamber. The goal is to measure whether the new laws are "easily understood" or whether Texans need clarification about where, when and how they can now carry their weapons.
The open carry law took effect New Year's Day, allowing roughly 826,000 handgun license holders to carry their weapons openly in a hip or shoulder holster. So far, there have been no major incidents reported. But local officials are still struggling to interpret some of the law's requirements, including whether police officers can ask those visibly carrying guns to present their permits.
The campus carry law doesn't take effect until August, and rules for guns in campus buildings are still being worked out at campuses across the state. The law allows university presidents to declare some buildings gun-free, but they can't create so many gun-free zones that it’s practically impossible to carry a gun on campus.
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That lack of specificity has sparked considerable debate. Many faculty members have urged their campus leaders to ban guns in classrooms. But so far, no schools are considering proposals that would institute such a ban, and lawmakers involved in passing the legislation and Attorney General Ken Paxton have said classroom bans would violate the spirit of the law.
A task force at UT-Austin, however, has proposed banning guns in dorms. Its leadership said it's confident it can do that under the new law. Paxton disagrees.
Meanwhile, most of the state's private universities have opted out of campus carry, as the new law allows.