By SEAN BATURA
The Texas State student senate sent a message Monday to school administrators and representatives in Austin: allow individuals with concealed handgun licenses to carry firearms on campus.
Student senators voted 25-10 in favor of a resolution opposing the university’s current ban on concealed handguns. Seven senators abstained from voting.
Associated Student Government (ASG) President Melanie Ferrari is expected to either veto, sign, or refrain from acting on the resolution Wednesday. The resolution will be automatically approved if Ferrari takes no action.
Senators drafted the resolution on the spot after a resolution in favor of the university’s current policy fell by a 27-23 vote. Senators prohibited abstentions during the vote on the defeated resolution. One senator who abstained from voting on the pro-concealed carry resolution voted against the anti-concealed carry resolution. Six senators who abstained from voting on the pro-concealed carry resolution voted in favor of the anti-concealed carry resolution. The senate barely maintained a quorum throughout the meeting.
The votes on both resolutions occurred after ASG officials heard and questioned expert testimony from concealed handgun license (CHL) instructor Isaac Hart of LoneStar Handgun LLC.
Proponents of the pro-concealed carry resolution intend its approval to facilitate the passage of HB 86 in the state legislature. The legislation would compel both public and private institutions of higher education to allow anyone with CHLs to possess handguns on campus, though the weapons would have to remain concealed. State Representative-elect Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), whose district will include Texas State, has expressed support for concealed carry on campus.
The pro-concealed carry resolution is to be used “as a means of creating a formal, representative statement on behalf of the majority of Texas State students only , and not a means for creating a policy or implementing an action,” in the language of the resolution.
The senate’s action Monday came after much debate and a lively public forum last week, when students and faculty sounded-off about the prospect of allowing concealed weapons on campus. The forum also featured a presentation from Texas State University Police Department (UPD) Captain of Operations Daniel Benitez, who counseled against allowing concealed handguns on campus. Benitez said that if HB 86 becomes law, police will have to undergo additional training in order to discern between aggressors and individuals acting in self-defense.
Benitez suggested increasing the size of the university’s police force as an alternative to allowing concealed carry on campus. Benitez said his department maintains a minimum of three officers on duty.
“Maybe we should have a minimum of six or seven officers on duty at any point in time,” Benitez said.
Those who brought forth the most statistics and research in support of their arguments at last week’s forum were generally in favor of concealed carry on campus, while supporters of the status quo generally argued from first principles. Most individuals who addressed ASG in person at the forum voiced support for allowing concealed carry on campus.
“(News of this forum) was emailed to us on Thursday, and today’s Monday,” said Texas State student Allison Bumsted, who expressed opposition to concealed carry on campus, at last week’s forum. “And it’s the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a real poor time to do this when almost everyone’s leaving, because we don’t have school after today. So I’m sure a lot of people are already out of town. Out of all the people in this school, how many showed up, 200? It wasn’t enough time notice for people.”
Most of the written, anonymous comments Ferrari read aloud at the forum expressed opposition to concealed handguns on campus.
“A lot of students I’ve spoken with personally who are against concealed carry on campus are afraid to say it,” Ferrari said.
Ferrari said part of the alleged fear of some may stem from an air of violence surrounding the issue and a suspicion that the resolution in support of concealed carry was too popular to oppose.
During the debate that preceded the resolution’s approval on Monday, one senator said some of her constituents opposed to concealed carry on campus were afraid to offer in-person comment at the meeting. Some senators opposed to concealed carry on campus said the presence of deadly weapons on campus among the student body would prevent the flourishing of a free marketplace of ideas and a healthy learning environment.
Proponents of concealed carry on campus said there is no evidence that abolishing the current ban on hidden handguns causes an increase in crime or hinders student learning.
“All this, to me, kind of comes down to self-defense, and primarily self-sufficiency — the right of each person to defend themselves, to secure their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” said Texas State student Preston Bissuett, who supported concealed carry on campus at last week’s forum.
Ferrari said she will take into account views expressed at last week’s forum, Monday’s ASG discussion, the vote counts on the resolutions, and meetings with her constituents, before taking action on the resolution. If Ferrari vetoes the legislation, it may come back before senators in the spring semester. Senators may override Ferrari’s veto by a two-thirds vote.
Senator Adam French authored the defeated pro-status quo resolution. However, French said he personally supports allowing CHL holders to bring their handguns on campus, and said he voted against his views because his constituents are mostly opposed to concealed carry on campus. After the pro-status quo legislation was defeated, Senator Tyler Crump immediately authored the pro-concealed carry resolution. French said he voted for the second resolution.
“We got the majority opinion in the first one (vote), and I believe that we needed to voice the majority opinion in the second one,” French said.Email | Print