by REEVE HAMILTON and KATE GALBRAITH
State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, is “frustrated and disappointed” by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to passing a bill permitting the concealed carry of firearms in buildings on university and college campuses.
House Bill 972, by state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, would make campus carry the de facto policy in the state but allows institutions to opt out of it on an annual basis. The bill has cleared the House as well as the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, where Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, previously refused to allow a vote on Birdwell’s similar, though more stringent, Senate Bill 182.
Birdwell told reporters Wednesday — the final day of the session for the Senate to pass bills — that he does not have the necessary votes to suspend the chamber’s rules and consider HB 972. “The clock is ticking, and prospects don’t improve with the passage of time,” he said.
It is possible to revive bills by adding them as amendments to related legislation, but Birdwell said he has no intention of doing so with campus carry because he gave colleagues his word that he wouldn’t. If another senator attempted such a maneuver, he said, that would be fine with him.
Whitmire has indicated that he does not support the bill but warned his committee that if Fletcher’s bill did not pass, a stronger bill could come up in a special session.
Birdwell noted that while adding the issue to a special session call was the governor’s prerogative, he believed it would be “seriously considered.” If the special session scenario does play out, Birdwell said he would attempt to move a bill like the one he initially filed, which does not include the opt-out provisions.
A bill allowing guns to be stored in cars on campus has passed both chambers, though the Senate has yet to act on the amended version sent back to them by the House.
While opponents of campus carry argue that it makes campuses more dangerous, supporters contend it is a right granted by the Second Amendment. Asked if recent high-profile incidents involving gun violence had slowed the bill’s momentum, Birdwell said, “It is always an appropriate time to defend a right.”
REEVE HAMILTON and KATE GALBRAITH report for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.