Texas Senate Passes Campus Carry, Shows We Have The Government We Deserve

Nothing, it seems, trumps property rights. Not even the God-given right to carry a handgun anywhere you goddamn please that Republicans repeatedly cite.

The Texas Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to approve so-called "campus carry" the second piece of major gun legislation the body has given the go-ahead this week. In addition to being able to carry their handgun in hip-holster, gun owners with concealed handgun licences have now been approved by the senate to carry their guns onto Texas' public college campuses, which have previously been gun-free zones. Private schools retain the autonomy to determine if they want firearms on campus or not.

Brian Birdwell, the Granbury Republican who authored the bill, insisted under repeated questioning from Democrats that he wasn't privileging those kids getting private educations, he was just respecting their schools' property rights. Exempting Baylor had nothing to do with its being one of the largest private employers in Birdwell's district, of course.

Rodney Ellis, a Democrat from Houston, pointed out that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison banned guns from the University of Virginia campus in the 19th century.

"This is not a constitutional issue," Ellis said in a statement issued after the vote. "This is an issue of ensuring our young people have a safe place of higher learning as they grow from childhood to adulthood. The fact that Thomas Jefferson and the drafter of the Bill of Rights, James Madison, established these rules is pretty conclusive: guns have no place on our state's college campuses."

Many current educators are against campus carry as well. In January, University of Texas system chancellor William McRaven, a former admiral, wrote a letter to Texas governor Greg Abbott that said he thought concealed guns on campuses would make for a "less-safe" educational environment.

Nevertheless, Birdwell's bill passed on a strict party-line vote, 20-11. That's the same margin that passed open carry, and the same margin that will pass countless other controversial bills this session.

Having stripped the two-thirds rule from Texas Senate procedure -- which required a two-thirds majority to bring bills to the senate floor -- Republicans have the hammer. We better get used to it.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young