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Criminal Justice Panel Sends Campus Carry Bill to Texas Senate

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

A campus carry bill declared dead earlier in the Texas legislative session has gotten a second life after a Senate committee gave it a hearing on May 14.

The packed room at the Capitol seemed familiar Tuesday – many testifying against a bill that would allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on college campuses.

But State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the Texas Legislature is likely to pass this campus carry bill.

"I will bet you a Coke that we’re going to have a special session and if you’re successful defeating this, you’re going to get the stronger version and it will become law," he said to Frances Schenkkan, a member of Texas Gun Sense. "Remember I advised you on that at 3 o’clock on May 14."

Schenkkan, an Austin resident, said she was not convinced.

"I will and I will be sorry for that," she said, adding that she'd still urge her senator, State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, to vote against either measure.

The hearing was on House Bill 972, which would allow universities to opt out. They would need to renew that decision annually. A Senate version of this bill by State. Sen Brian Birdwell, R- Granbury, would not allow an option. Both would create exemptions for hospitals, sporting events and a few other venues. 

At least five other states allow firearms in classrooms. North Carolina’s State House passed a bill last week that would allow it, but its Senate committee hasn’t debated it yet. Despite his remarks, Sen. Whitmire voted against it, as did State Sen. José Rodriguez. HB 972 goes next to the Senate floor. 

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