CHRISTY HOPPE Staff Writer
Published: 14 May 2013 04:51 PM
Updated: 14 May 2013 05:09 PM
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 4-2 to send a bill to the full Senate that would allow licensed gun holders to carry their weapons into classrooms and campus buildings.
During the hearing, commmittee chairman Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he favored the bill because it provides that public universities, after holding hearings, can opt-out and disallow weapons.
But opponents testified that campuses will have to go through the hearing exercise every year. And the bill removes any criminal charges for concealed handgun license holders who defy a campus ban and bring their weapons into campus buildings.
One woman said that if she sends her child to a campus, she would want to know with certainty that guns wouldn’t be there for the entire four years.
Supporters said they should have the right to protect themselves from crime and assaults that happen on campuses.
Another contentious portion of the bill would revoke any criminal penalties from defying a ban. Currently, the law provides misdemeanor charges against those who carry their weapons into a place where weapons are banned.
But sponsors of the bill said they beleive law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be penalized for mistakenly carrying their gun into a university building. They said that violators can be fired, expelled or face other disciplinary action – they just shouldn’t be charged with a crime.
Whitmire told several witnesses that testified against the bill – including college professors, nurses and counselors – that this should be a bill they could settle for. He said if this opt-out version didn’t get passed, then the tougher bill, mandating all public universities to allow guns, would resurface.
The tougher bill would likely be filed during a special session when Senate procedures change, so that a minority of senators couldn’t block a bill, Whitmire said.
As it is, Whitmire said he predicted that it would have the votes to pass the Senate. The bill already has cleared the House, and Gov. Rick Perry has publicly endorsed campus carry.
Molly Cummings, an associate biology professor at the University of Texas, said she teaches students who believe a ‘C’ grade could be fatal for their dreams of medical school. College students are at an age when mental illness first surfaces, and mixing that with stress, pressure and guns is a bad combination, she said.
“There is a reason why most of the military academies in the United States do not permit students to carry weapons on campus,” Cummings said.
“If students who are trained to use weapons as part of their career are not allowed firearms on their campuses, why are we even thinking about allowing the general public CHL holders to carry within our classrooms?” she asked.
Whitmire joked that if professors handed out good grades, there wouldn’t be such concern.
“I got a great solution to your problem: Grade on the gun curve,” he said.