Dear Senator Whitmire:
Last week several media sources reported that Senator Birdwell’s bill to legalize concealed carry on campus by licensed, law-abiding CHL holders would likely not be scheduled for a committee hearing. You stated that your reluctance was due to the need for a “cooling-off period” after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and other incidents still fresh in the American mind.
While I understand your concerns, they are misplaced.
During the last legislative session, campus carry became a hot-button issue as students from all over the state visited legislative offices, urging state senators and representatives to vote based on facts, not feelings. At that time, just over 70 college and university campuses allowed concealed carry – with no resulting negative incidents, such as “Wild West shootouts,” increases in suicide rates or accidental discharges, reported. Since then, according to Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, that number has increased to more than 200 campuses nationwide.
As you know, Senator Birdwell’s bill would allow only adults who have undergone training and classroom time, been deemed of sound mind and passed a background check to carry weapons onto campuses. These individuals are already allowed to carry their weapons nearly everywhere in the general public, where concealed carry has been legal for nearly 20 years.
Refusing to schedule SB 182 for a hearing due to events that have only one thing in common – a gun – makes little sense. The shooting in Newtown was conducted outside of Texas with an illegal, unconcealed rifle by an individual with a history of mental health problems, and it did not happen on a university campus. While tragic, and certainly worth remembering, it should not prevent others from having a chance at self-defense.
Many have told you that emotions run high on college campuses or that guns on campus would threaten academic freedom. However, as you also know, disagreements and heated arguments are just as common in everyday life as they are in classrooms. By and large, Texans with CHLs have not resorted to shootouts or duels to resolve their differences in the many places they have already been allowed to carry since 1995. They will not do so on college campuses.
The right to keep and bear arms is one of the most important rights the American people hold dear – so important it was included second in the Bill of Rights. Texans who have proven themselves responsible enough to carry a concealed weapon in public should be able to do so on both sides of the arbitrary line that defines campus versus non-campus.
Senator, I encourage you and your colleagues to schedule SB 182 for a hearing. Texans deserve to let their voices be heard on this important legislation.
Thank you for your service to the State of Texas and for your consideration.