Several of the approximately 45 pieces of firearm-related legislation filed since Nov. 14, 2016 pertain to open carry and campus carry legislation.
Campus carry and open carry legislation was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June 2015. Now, the 2017 legislative session has the chance to make amendments or additions to these laws.
Two house bills have been filed that would provide public higher education institutions the ability to opt out of campus carry.
HB 282 and HB 391 — filed by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, respectively — would make it a crime to carry a handgun on a campus that has chosen to opt out.
Ana Lopez, president of Students Against Campus Carry, said her organization worked with Howard to file HB 391.
“It is kind of a large step, but we’ve got it out there,” Lopez said. “We are still respecting people’s Second Amendment rights to carry a weapon in a safe manner that doesn’t endanger others.”
HB 968 — filed by Will Metcalf, R-Conroe — and SB 349 — authored by Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe — would amend the law, which currently makes it illegal to carry a gun on the grounds of a school, to include post-secondary institutions, regardless of the institution’s status as private or public.
Media relations director J.B. Bird said the University cannot comment on pending legislation or on whether the University would choose to opt out if given that choice. University President Gregory Fenves has previously expressed concern with campus carry legislation.
HB 375 — authored by Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford — would allow individuals to carry a handgun without a permit, also referred to as “constitutional carry.”
“It is time in Texas to restore our Second Amendment rights to their originally intended level,” Stickland said in a December statement after filing the bill. “No Texan should have to pay a fee or take a class to exercise their right to bear arms.”
The bill, which would make carrying a firearm in a room where an open government meeting is being held illegal, would also restrict public universities from creating rules against permitting guns on campus.
Michael Cargill, owner and founder of Central Texas Gun Works, said he is a proponent “constitutional carry.” Currently, the requirement to acquire a handgun license is to take a four- to six-hour course, pay an application fee and apply through the state. To purchase any firearm, an individual must pass a background check. This requirement would not change should HB 375 be implemented.
“I think every Texan should take the handgun license course, but it shouldn’t be something that is mandated by the state,” Cargill said.
Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project, said a University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll in February 2015 found only 10 percent of Texas voters thought Texans should be allowed to openly carry firearms in public places without permits.
“Given the lack of support going into the 2015 session for unlicensed, open carry and the declining desire to loosen current gun laws after the passage of open and campus carry, I don’t think that anything has happened to make unlicensed, open carry more palatable to the public, nor the legislature,” Blank said in an email.