Politics & Government

Texas college students debate guns on campus bill

HURST — Peter Salas is a self-described gun-rights supporter whose family has a hunting tradition, but he opposes concealed handguns on college campuses.

"There's no need to have a gun on campus," said Salas, 26, president of the Student Political Awareness Club at Tarrant County College Northeast Campus. "If someone came into my home, that would change the game, but coming to a huge campus when there are people everywhere ... I'm not prepared for that."

His group has collected 600 signatures on a petition opposing state legislation that would allow students to carry guns. Several TCC students plan to bring the petition to a "No Handguns on Campus" rally in Austin today.

Clayton Smith, 21, went to federal court two years ago to win the right to stage "empty holster" protests at TCC in support of gun rights. He plans to wear his empty holster to class next week as part of nationwide protests to mark the fourth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, which left 33 people dead.

"We want students to be able to defend themselves," said Smith, the leader of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus at TCC Northeast.

The disparate views reflect the divide among college students as Texas lawmakers continue to tinker with legislation. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed a bill 4-2 on Thursday. A House panel recently approved a bill. Gov. Rick Perry has voiced his support.

If the change is approved, Texas would join Utah, Virginia, Colorado and Michigan in giving colleges authority to allow guns on campus, according to www.armedcampuses.org.

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