The Chron reports that the dreaded Guns on campus bill is one step closer to passing. The House Public Safety Committee voted 7-2, along party lines, to pass the bill and send it to the whole House.
This bill is a little bit different than most of the other “guns on campus” bills that have been considered in the past. The major difference is that this one includes an “opt-out provision.” The real world application of this would mean that a Public College or University would only be allowed to let students and other carry concealed handguns on campus once they consulted with students and faculty. Thus, if the majority of students/faculty were opposed, this bill would not affect the institution.
Accordingly, schools like UT, UH and TSU would probably not actually be affected by this, whereas A&M or Tech would be able to. Finally, there is an “opt-in” provision for Private Colleges and Universities, meaning that if you go to, say, Baylor, SMU,or one of those little seminaries in a rural county, you would be allowed to carry your gun.
I must say that, like the recent compromise on charter schools, this isn’t all that bad of a deal. However, what would lead me to vote against this bill as it currently stands, and perhaps led the Democrats on the committee to do the same, is that, under the bill, the penalties for certain college related firearms infractions were mitigated. Under current law, carrying a firearm on a college campus is a felony. Under this proposed bill, the penalty were be lowered to a misdemeanor (for what it is worth, violators would still lose their handgun licenses). Personally, I see this as almost an incentive to break the law.
My friends at UT must be happy about the idea that their college will have the opportunity to opt-out of radical gun laws, and I can’t blame them. If I am not mistaken, there was a time in the early 2000s when my college’s police department didn’t even carry guns. I guess that is the People’s Republic of Massachusetts for you.