Saturday, May 4, the House will consider a number of bills related to handguns. Here is the General State Calendar for this day, which is subject to revision.
One of several introduced bills that would allow licensed carriers of concealed handguns to bring their weapons into campus buildings is scheduled for a House vote on this day. The bill is HB 972. Importantly, the measure in its present ("Committee Substitute") form allows local institutions to opt out by following a stipulated procedure, including consultation with students, faculty, and staff. In the words of the official analysis:
C.S.H.B. 972 amends the Government Code to authorize a public institution of higher education in Texas, after consulting with the institution's students, staff, and faculty, to adopt written rules or regulations prohibiting concealed handgun license holders from carrying handguns on premises owned or leased and operated by the institution, on any grounds or building owned or leased by the institution and on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or on a passenger transportation vehicle of the institution. The bill requires an institution that adopts such a rule or regulation to give notice of the rule or regulation by posting signs that meet the statutory requirements for notice of trespass by a license holder, and requires an institution that does not adopt such a rule or regulation to adopt written rules or regulations concerning the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities that are owned or leased and operated by the institution and the carrying of concealed handguns by license holders at collegiate sporting events that take place on grounds or buildings owned or leased and operated by the institution.
TCCTA supports the local or institutional option contained in HB 972, and members are urged to emphasize this important point to representatives now.
HB 972 will be subject to amendment from the floor, which could alter its provisions. A brief message supporting local or institutional control offers the most concise and effective faculty communication to House members. The situation could change before May 4—watch for ample media attention—but the TCCTA position will remain consistent. Ask your representative to support the local option provision in the bill, which will allow local trustees or regents to decide whether to allow licensed carriers to bring their weapons on campus.
Here is the TCCTA Legislative Resources page, including Who Represents Me? Here is a list of House members with contact information. IMPORTANT: Do not use college equipment or e-mail accounts to communicate with public officials.
Media accounts indicate that guns-on-campus measures are having trouble in the Senate. Here is a previous post on this subject. In fact, some House members are reportedly concerned that their chamber is taking precious time on a fruitless endeavor at this point in the Session. These accounts do not alter our approach to bills such as HB 972, however. This is the time when unexpected occurrences become commonplace, so please act now.
Last week, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, declared the Senate’s version dead. On Monday, Whitmire reiterated that he does not believe the proposal has enough support in the Senate and added that the House’s version would not get a hearing in his Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
“Every minute of every day in the next two weeks is absolutely critical,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. “The notion that we would take up and debate controversial matters that there is no appetite for in the Senate, to me, doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Fischer called the proposal a “red herring” for higher education issues, adding that the controversial bill will waste finite “oxygen” in the House.
Another member said the vote — which would be fruitless if the Senate declines to consider it — would represent a moral victory for members to tell constituents they voted for a pro-gun bill that they ultimately know will not pass.
“The true casualty in this will be other good ideas, other public policy proposals that may not see the light of day because we spend a good amount of time on a bill that has no chance of passing the Senate,” Fischer said.
State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who chairs the Higher Education Committee, said the provision to allow university leadership to have some say, rather than setting a statewide policy, is a step in the right direction.