GUEST COMMENTARY by SEN. JEFF WENTWORTH
Almost three years ago, a gunman killed two people in a dormitory and then proceeded to a classroom at Virginia Tech where he killed 30 more. He also wounded at least 15 people.
That attack was the deadliest college campus shooting in U.S. history, but there have been at least six others with multiple casualties.
That is why on Thursday, January 13, I, along with 13 co-authors, filed Senate Bill 354 to allow those with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) to carry handguns into college and university buildings, dormitories and classrooms.
I want to put an element of doubt in a potential shooter’s mind. And, if some deranged person does open fire in a Texas college classroom or dormitory, I want to give faculty, staff and students the ability to defend themselves.
At the end of 2010, fewer than three percent of Texans aged 21and older were active CHL holders.
To qualify for a concealed handgun license, Texans must be at least 21 years of age, or at least 18 years old if currently serving in or honorably discharged from the military. This would prevent most freshman, sophomore and junior students from obtaining a license.
Those who are not eligible to purchase a firearm under federal and state laws cannot obtain a CHL.
Applicants for a CHL must provide a social security number; valid driver license or identification card; current physical address, contact, and employment information; residential and employment information for the last five years; and information regarding any psychiatric, drug, alcohol, or criminal history. Finally, applicants must be fingerprinted.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) then runs a computerized background check through the state and FBI, using the fingerprints.
The DPS shares information with local law enforcement in every place the applicant has lived in the past five years. Then the local department employees perform a background check. This includes a review of county records, including any local arrest records that may not have been forwarded to the DPS’s Crime Records Bureau.
Local justice of the peace courts and municipal courts are checked for any disqualifying Class C misdemeanor convictions. Deferred adjudication, in regard to CHL, is considered a conviction.
Applicants who indicate past mental health issues are referred to a Medical Advisory Board to make a determination on the applicant’s ability to exercise sound judgment with respect to the proper use and storage of a handgun.
Court-ordered commitment for psychiatric treatment or court-ordered outpatient treatment, however, will make an applicant ineligible for a license.
In short, the process to obtain a concealed handgun license is a rigorous one that includes background checks, 10 to 15 hours of classroom instruction taught by a DPS-certified instructor, and firing range instruction and testing. Long before the Virginia Tech tragedy, I have been a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
I see no reason why students, faculty and staff inside campus buildings should give up that right, especially to mentally deranged or suicidal lawbreakers.
State Sen. JEFF WENTWORTH is a San Antonio Republican whose district includes Hays County.Email | Print