Texas Senate OKs guns at colleges

AUSTIN — The Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that would allow concealed handguns at colleges and universities, but with less than two weeks left in the 2009 Legislature, the bill's ultimate outcome is uncertain.

"That's the real question. I don't know the answer to that," said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, when asked whether there is enough time to win final passage in the Senate and rush the bill through the House before the June 1 adjournment.

The bill would allow Texans who have concealed-handgun permits to carry the weapons into college and university buildings, classrooms and dormitories. Wentworth said permit holders can currently carry guns onto campuses, but not into buildings.

The measure would apply to all colleges and universities, but private institutions, such as Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University, could opt out of the requirements and ban handguns. State-supported institutions, such as the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas in Denton, would be required to comply.

The 20-10 vote came as somewhat of a surprise since gun legislation appeared in peril in the closing days of the session. Sens. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Chris Harris, R-Arlington, voted for the bill, while Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, opposed it.

Davis said she believes that the governing bodies of individual colleges and universities should get to decide whether to allow guns.

Wentworth pointed out that the bill would apply only to those who meet the requirements for carrying concealed handguns in Texas, meaning that no one under 21 could legally carry weapons on campuses.

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