'Campus Carry' top legislative priority for College Republicans - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

'Campus Carry' top legislative priority for College Republicans

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Released by W. Scott Lewis for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus:

AUSTIN, TX - The Texas College Republicans and Young Conservatives of Texas don't always see eye to eye, but when it comes to naming a top priority for the 2011 Texas Legislative Session, both organizations are in complete agreement: They want the State of Texas to stop treating college students, faculty, and staff as second-class citizens.

In Texas, holders of state-issued concealed handgun licenses are currently allowed to carry concealed handguns in locations such as churches, movie theaters, shopping malls, office buildings, grocery stores, banks, and even the Texas Capitol. But license holders are prohibited from carrying handguns on the premises of any college or university. Both the College Republicans and the Young Conservatives see that as a glaring inconsistency that must be fixed, a task they want placed at the top of the Texas Legislature's 2011 to-do list.

According to Justin Till, chairman of the Texas College Republicans and a student at Angelo State University, "Our opponents think this is about turning students and faculty into amateur security guards, in hopes of preventing another Virginia Tech. But this isn't about campus security; it's about personal security. It's about ensuring that Texans aren't forced to choose between getting an education and being able to protect themselves."

Just one week into the 2011 Texas Legislative Session, both freshman Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) and veteran Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) have already filed bills (HB 86 and SB 354) aimed at legalizing licensed concealed carry (of handguns) on Texas college campuses. Representative Joe Driver (R- Garland) is said to be putting the finishing touches on his own "campus carry" bill.

During Texas's last legislative session (2009), Senator Wentworth and Representative Driver pushed a campus carry bill (SB 1164/HB 1893) that passed the Senate by a vote of 20 to 11 but failed to reach the floor of the House, due to a Democratic filibuster (by a method known as "chubbing") of a controversial voter ID bill. A bipartisan majority in the House, which was then divided almost evenly between the Republicans and Democrats, had pledged to support the bill if it reached the floor.

Tony McDonald, Senior Vice Chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas and a law student at the University of Texas at Austin, is cautiously optimistic that the Texas Legislature will finally pass campus carry this session.

"I think most of the legislators realize that this is as much about student rights and individual rights as gun rights," said McDonald. "The State of Texas already allows these trained, licensed, carefully-screened adults—age 21 and above—to carry concealed handguns throughout the rest of Texas. What evidence is there that they'll show any less discretion or sound judgment on college campuses?"

Asked if he believes there is any validity to opponents' concerns about the dangers of mixing guns and alcohol, McDonald responded, "Where would guns and alcohol be mixed? Legalizing campus carry wouldn't change the laws governing bars or frat houses or tailgating events or off-campus parties or any of the other places where students are likely to drink. Opponents are confusing college campuses with college life."

Justin Till agrees that opponents' fears are misplaced. "Licensed concealed carry isn't causing problems throughout the rest of Texas, it's not causing problems on the 71 college campuses that allow it in other states, and there is no reason to assume it will cause problems on Texas college campuses."

W. Scott Lewis, Texas legislative director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus—the organization responsible for bringing the Young Conservatives and College Republicans together on this issue—added, "As much as our opponents want to sidetrack this debate with discussions about underage drinking and teen suicide and gun shows and a million other unrelated topics, this really boils down to the fact that the state laws and school policies prohibiting concealed carry on Texas college campuses serve no purpose but to place students, faculty, and staff at the mercy of any criminal willing to disregard state law and school policy."

All three organizations—College Republicans, Young Conservatives, and Students for Concealed Carry—agree that the current system creates a disparity between collegians and the rest of society. "Why," asked Lewis, "Should license holders be allowed the means to defend themselves at a movie theater on Saturday and at a church on Sunday but not on a college campus on Monday?"

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