The Texas House of Representatives will vote on Senate Bill 11 in the coming months, which, if passed, would lift the ban on concealed handguns on Texas’ university campuses.
The bill cleared the Texas Senate in late March.
ACUPD Chief of Police Jimmy Ellison has been debating the issue and informing faculty and staff of the possible affects of these bills for months.
“Under current Texas law, if you are a concealed handgun license holder, you are legally allowed to carry a concealed handgun on or about your person,” said Ellison. “But, under the current law, you are not allowed to carry your concealed handgun onto the college campus other than into parking areas, where you keep it locked in your vehicle.”
The subject of concealed handguns on college campuses in Texas has been argued for the last few legislative sessions. Legislators have struggled to put any kind of bill like this through, mainly because the Senate needed a two-thirds majority approval to bring a bill to the floor. This rule has since been changed, allowing the campus carry bill onto the floor.
The bill passed along strict party lines in the Senate March 18, with all 11 Democrats opposing it.
There are valid points to be made on both sides of the issue, said Ellison.
“Proponents of the bill argue that college campuses are where most active shooter situations occur, and yet, the current law prohibits me from protecting myself at the place I might need it the most,” said Ellison. “Opponents of the bill argue that having more guns on campus may only complicate an already dangerous situation during a crisis event.”
Despite knowing the bill had enough votes to pass, Senate Democrats attempted to poke holes in the bill during debates. Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston raised the question of university leaderships’ authority.
“This really should be left up to local officials who deal with this on a daily basis,” said Garcia. “You put so much trust in the [license] holder but not in university presidents.”
Regardless of Democrats’ objections, the bill passed and is now up for debate in the House, which will vote in the next few weeks.
Even if it passes, Senate Bill 11 may not affect ACU at all.
“The law that’s being proposed allows for an exemption by private universities. It will allow for private universities to prohibit guns on campus, but only after they’ve consulted with faculty, staff and students,” said Ellison.
If the bill passes, it will go into affect Sept. 1, which means a decision may have to be made by private universities in the next few months.
“I’ve already been in discussion with ACU senior leadership, giving them advance information about this bill, and that they need to be thinking about what their mechanism will be to consult with their community,” said Ellison.