Guns may be allowed at Texas colleges
By ANNA M. TINSLEY
Texans might soon be able to pack heat on college campuses.
That is just one of several proposals that could reach lawmakers next year as they — and legislators nationwide — explore broadening some gun laws.
"It addresses personal protection," said state Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, who heads the House committee that considers gun bills. "People who do things [like the Virginia Tech shooting] basically know they are walking into a gun-free zone.
"They are cowards . . . facing people not allowed to fight back."
Lawmakers could set their sights on several proposals next year in the wake of the recent historic Supreme Court ruling that determined that Americans have a right to own guns for hunting and self-defense.
Communities nationwide are doing the same thing.
Changes are already under way in some states, such as Florida, where employees may now lock guns in their cars even on private property, and Georgia, where pistols are now allowed in state parks and restaurants and on public transportation.
And lawsuits have already been filed challenging some city rules — including one in Chicago that bans possessing a gun in the city and one in San Francisco that bans handguns in public housing.
Texas likely won’t end up in the litigation fray, said James Dark, executive director of the Texas State Rifle Association.
"It is questionable whether there are any Texas laws strict enough to warrant court scrutiny," he said. "Our laws are not restrictive enough."
But anti-gun groups are working to counter future legislation nationwide, already boosting fundraising efforts to fight more challenges.
"We have our work cut out for us, but I know we can beat the gun lobby in court," Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, wrote in a recent letter to supporters. "We have common sense on our side. And, with the Brady Center’s legal expertise and years of experience, we can and will help defend gun laws that protect you, your family and your community."
A law enacted in 1995 gave Texans the right to carry concealed weapons if they get a permit. More than 290,000 Texans now have permits, Department of Public Safety records show.
Driver said lawmakers probably won’t embrace an open-carry approach, despite an online petition now signed by more than 18,000 Texans.
"If that’s what a majority of the people want, we would consider it," he said. "I’m not going for that at this point. . . . but I won’t work against it.
"I believe we ought to be able to protect ourselves however we can."
Driver said he may propose a campus personal protection act to let those with concealed handgun permits carry guns at colleges.
"We’re trying to provide students, faculty, visitors, anyone with a concealed handgun license the ability to protect themselves and at times protect others," he said.
A professor recently testified on the issue before a legislative committee, saying he is responsible for making sure students get out of the building safely if there’s a fire, tornado or other dangerous situation.
"But he said he’s tasked — if somebody starts shooting students — with hiding under his desk," Driver said.
Utah is the only state so far to allow weapons at all public universities.
Another proposal that may go to lawmakers next year would let holders of concealed-handgun licenses lock their guns in a secure area at work, perhaps their vehicle’s glove compartment or in the office.
Texas law now prohibits guns in places such as government buildings and lets private businesses ban weapons on their property.
"I think it’s always time in Texas to address the gun laws," Driver said. "We are slowly moving along, trying to make sure everyone understands why we want these bills passed, why we want to let people protect themselves."