AUSTIN (KXAN) - If you have a license to carry a handgun, you might soon be able walk into a building on a college campus in Texas and not be breaking the law. Senate leaders are working to secure votes ahead of a crucial deadline next Tuesday.
The "conceal carry" bill has failed in recent legislative sessions. But in the final days of this one, it's getting closer to passing than ever before.
The idea was an unsettling one for Monica Jiminez, as she walked up to the library at the University of Texas in Austin. Three years ago, she worked in the building and was on the way to start her shift when a gunman opened fire.
"It felt strange to come to work in a place where I knew someone had lost their life," Jiminez said of the shooter who killed only himself that day.
She and her boyfriend, Roger Reeves, both teach college classes now in Chicago and think about the risk they take being on a campus. But they say having guns legally in college buildings might make matters worse.
"I stick by my guns," she said. "I really think it's a bad idea."
Sen. Brian Birdwell - campus-carry bill's Senate sponsor - said leaders are working behind the scenes to secure enough votes to bring the measure to the floor for a vote. It must gain preliminary approval by Tuesday night to move on to the governor's desk.
"Right now, the matter is in the hands of Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to see how we can work out an opportunity to have some Democrats come alongside us," said Birdwell, a Granbury Republican.
Birdwell expected the bill might come up as early as Friday, as it is still likely shy of the necessary votes. He – like other lawmakers including Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston – said a special session might involve a version of the bill this summer, if the bill did not make it to the governor's desk in these final two weeks of the regular session.
The version of the bill now before the Senate is a weaker version of campus-carry measures that have failed in previous sessions. Under this plan, public universities could opt out of the law, but they would be required to renew their gun policies each year after input from faculty, staff and students. Private universities could opt in to the law.
Under the measure, CHL holders would still be prohibited from bringing their weapon to a sporting event, hospitals or elementary schools located on college campuses.
More than half-a-million Texans have Concealed Handgun Licenses. Those are people over 21 who completed a training course. Right now, college campuses are one place where those people cannot legally carry guns.
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