Texas legislators approved two bills legalizing the open carrying of handguns in public and on university campuses, overcoming objections from gun control activists but caving in to pressure from law enforcement on some provisions.
Known as House Bill 901, the open carry law would allow holders of the concealed-carry license to carry handguns in public in a hip or shoulder holster. After a week of fierce debate and a threat of a Democratic filibuster that never materialized, the bill cleared the state House on Friday with 102 votes in favor and 43 against. It was approved by a 20-11 vote in the Senate.
“Open Carry just passed in both the Texas House & Senate. Next destination: My Pen,” tweeted Governor Greg Abbott.
Some Second Amendment activists thought the open carry bill did not go far enough, since it did not abolish the licensing requirement. Police chiefs mobilized to successfully defeat an amendment that would have prevented officers from demanding to see people’s licenses. The so-called “cop stop” amendment was championed by a coalition of Democrats who wanted to prevent racial profiling and Republicans concerned about unreasonable searches.
“There is no evidence to show the open carry of handguns makes Texas safer,” said Sandy Chasse, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Texas Tribune reported. The gun control group argued against the bill on grounds of public safety.
Once signed by the governor, the bill should go into effect on January 1, 2016.
The House also approved the so-called “campus carry” bill, approved by the Senate in January by a vote of 98-47. The law would allow college students and staff with valid concealed carry permits to bring their handguns into dormitories, cafeterias and other portions of public university campuses.
Guns would still be banned at sporting events, though, and provisions were made for universities to designate gun-free zones. Private schools will have to follow the public universities’ lead. The bill’s implementation will begin in August 2016 at four-year public universities, expanding to junior colleges and private schools at a later date.
Critics of the bill, including University of Texas System Chancellor and former US Navy admiral William McRaven, have argued that allowing guns in the classroom would stifle academic interaction and lead to an increase in injuries.
Supporters have dismissed such fears as unfounded, pointing out that existing laws limit concealed carry permits to persons 21 or older, in effect excluding the majority of college students.
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