WASHINGTON – Texas is poised to approve a measure allowing college students and professors to carry guns on campus, an initiative with strong support in the state legislature that critics concede they probably can’t stop.
The legislation has been championed by Gov. Rick Perry, co-sponsored by over half the lawmakers in the state House, and approved two years ago in the Senate. Texas would follow Utah, the only state in the nation to have a similar law.
“It’s strictly a matter of self-defense,” state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a Republican, told The Associated Press. “I don’t ever want to see repeated on a Texas college campus what happened at Virginia Tech, where some deranged, suicidal madman goes into a building and is able to pick off totally defenseless kids like sitting ducks.”
The measure’s supporters commonly argue that it would make campus shootings less likely, not more, wading into a key point of contention between opponents and proponents of looser gun laws.
College leaders across the nation have criticized the idea as dangerous, dismissing the view that a filling up the classrooms and dorm rooms with weapons would make inhabitants safer.
Glen Johnson, Oklahoma’s chancellor of high education envisioned “no scenario where allowing concealed weapons on college campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors.”
That the Texas legislature overwhelmingly disagrees is a testament to the state’s gun culture as well as the towering political influence of the pro-gun lobby.
“Things do look bleak,” Colin Goddard of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, who was in Austin lobbying against the bill, told AP. “People want to be the hero, I understand that. They play video games and they think they understand the reality. It’s nothing like that.”
Nationwide, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups have in the last two decades outspent gun-control advocates by over 20-to-1 on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Texas ranks 32nd on the list of states with most permissive gun laws, and 23rd in per capita gun deaths, according to data compiled by The Daily Beast.