AUSTIN — After an emotional 51/2-hour hearing, the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee voted 5-3 Wednesday night to advance legislation to allow concealed handguns on college and university campuses.
House Bill 750, by Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, would allow holders of concealed-handgun permits to carry their weapons in campus buildings. It would keep a ban on guns in bars, churches, hospitals and athletic events at colleges.
Public colleges and universities would be required to comply, but private institutions, such as TCU and Texas Wesleyan University, could opt out after consulting with the faculty and students.
The vote was along party lines. The five Republican committee members voted in favor. Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, voted no, along with Reps. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Barbara Mallory Caraway, D-Dallas.
James Spaniolo, president of the University of Texas at Arlington, and the school's student congress have opposed the legislation. TCU officials, in a statement this week, also opposed it.
"The ramifications of allowing an individual with a concealed handgun license to carry a weapon on campus would create dangerous situations and in essence, put faculty, staff, students and University guests in the line of fire," the statement says.
Dozens of students, gun-rights advocates, law enforcement officials and education advocates, testifying into the evening, offered sharply divided views.
"We're basically fish in a barrel," said W. Scott Lewis of Austin, representing Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. "This is about changing the odds."
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