Campus carry legislation passed last session would undergo a major change if legislators sign off on a “constitutional carry” bill from state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.
House Bill 375 would eliminate the requirement to obtain a license and complete gun safety classes in order to carry a handgun. The bill’s provisions would extend to public college campuses.
The “campus carry” law, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2016, allows individuals to carry a concealed handgun on public college campuses and in certain buildings as long as they have the proper licensing.
Under current law, a person must be 18 years or older to legally buy a firearm and is required to have a license to carry a handgun outside of their home or vehicle. However, you may only acquire this license if you are 21.
By eliminating the licensing requirement to obtain a handgun, Stickland’s bill would lower the legal age to carry a handgun on campuses to 18. The places an individual could carry a handgun on campus would not change under the bill.
During the bill’s committee hearing at the end of March, the question of amending campus carry laws seemed to be a source of some confusion.
State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, said at one point that it was not Stickland’s intention to change campus
Stickland, however, responded saying that was his intention and his bill would do just that.
“I prescribe to the idea that every Texan, regardless of their color or income, has the right to bear arms if they so choose,” Stickland said. “Texas often leads on issues, how about we start doing so in regards to personal liberty.”
King replied by saying this would be something they would need to think about clarifying in the bill.
Stickland’s office did not return multiple requests for comment on this story.
Students for Concealed Carry, a national organization in favor of license holders having the right to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, confirmed in an emailed statement that HB 375 would allow permitless carry on campuses by anyone over 18 and not prohibited from owning a firearm.
“Because SCC does not take a position on unlicensed carry, we will remain neutral on this bill,” the organization said in a statement. “However, we want to make sure that everyone has the correct information on how this bill would impact campus carry.”
While UT cannot comment on pending legislation, the University said they would be closely monitoring how the bill would affect campus carry.
The Legislative Budget Board has estimated Stickland’s bill would cost the state more than $37 million in the first two years after the bill is enacted because of the loss of revenue from licensing charges. For individuals over 21, the option to complete the training classes and obtain a license would still be available under HB 375, and Stickland said his bill would not change this process.
Stickland championed his bill as a strong protection of Second Amendment rights and said 11 other states already have similar legislation.
“What was once just a far-fetched defense of Second Amendment rights, is now a total public health issue,” said Ana Lopez, president of Students Against Campus Carry. “If this bill passes, we are all in danger.”
While HB 375 was left pending in committee without a vote, state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said in a statement he was “eagerly awaiting the opportunity to sponsor” a constitutional carry bill in the Senate.