The Texas state legislature has passed a bill that will allow residents to carry concealed firearms on college campuses.
The state Senate approved the bill on Saturday, with a 20-11 vote, and the state House of Representatives passed the bill on Sunday, with a 98-47 vote. Republican Greg Abbott, the newly-elected Governor of the Lone Star state, is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation allows registered gun owners to carry a licensed firearm onto a college campus. While university presidents can ban students and other gun owners from carrying their weapons into certain areas, the state law will not allow college presidents to ban firearms all throughout the campus, The Los Angeles Times reports.
However, all firearms on campus must be concealed. Any firearms in plain sight are not allowed under the state restrictions.
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“As a student and a veteran, I appreciate the fact that I will be able to defend myself and my fellow students in the unlikely event that there is an active shooter at my university,” CJ Grisham, the president and founder of the pro-gun rights group Open Carry Texas, wrote on the group's Facebook page. “This is common sense legislation that ensure[s] our students and faculties will now be … safer having abolished a major gun free, victim spree zone.”
While previous laws in Texas allowed those with gun permits to carry firearms on campuses, the new legislation now expands that right to classrooms, cafeterias and other public areas, Bloomberg News reports.
As expected, opposition to the legislation was strong, with many university presidents voicing their concerns about accidental shootings and suicides. Even some lawmakers held reservations about the new measure.
“I have concerns about introducing guns in a university environment already fraught with stress and often fragile emotions,” state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, a Democrat, said during debate on May 30.
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Since 2004, eight states have passed laws that allow guns to be brought onto college campuses, with Utah being the first state to allow such actions. This year, 10 states have voted down proposals to expand gun rights while four others - South Carolina, Ohio, Nevada and Oklahoma – are still in debate.
Just two days before the bill was passed, the Texas legislature approved a bill that will allow gun owners to carry their firearms openly throughout the state. Abbott is expected to sign that bill as well.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons, utexas.edu