A multi-state battle is being fought over where legal gun owners should be allowed to carry their firearms and the issue came to a head at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, this weekend.
As gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held its protest of the NRA and of legislation expanding concealed carry in Tennessee parks, a bill to allow concealed handgun licensees to carry on Texas college campuses is making its way through the Texas legislature.
“It would be an experiment to say ‘well, what would happen? Let’s see,’” Stephanie Lundy, spokeswoman for the Moms Texas chapter, told Guns.com during its Nashville rally. “Mothers aren’t willing to play games like that with their children’s safety. They’re just not. It’s not something that you experiment with.”
The gun control group – under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety – is running a TV ad in Texas responding to Senate Bill 11.
“College, it’s a place to learn and a place that can get a little crazy,” the ad’s narrator says. “It doesn’t take a genius to know that guns don’t belong in college classrooms, dorm rooms, football stadiums or frat parties.”
The ad referred to a March 17 SurveyUSA random phone poll the Moms group funded which found that 72 percent of 828 likely Texas voters did not think college students should be allowed to bring a concealed handgun to class. A lower percentage of people – 66 percent – did not think people should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in student dormitories, according to the poll.
Another poll, conducted by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune, found that 47 percent of Texans support campus carry. However, the same poll indicated that 36 percent of Texans thought the state’s gun control laws should be stricter, 22 percent were in favor of loosening gun laws and 36 percent thought they should be left as is, The Texas Tribune reported.
The Houston Chronicle in February reported that campus carry would cost Texas $47 million, money that could be diverted from university research and a bill that students could ultimately have to bear.
The Texas Senate passed the campus carry bill 20-11 on March 19 and it currently sits in committee before being submitted for vote in the House.
“We hear common arguments about campus concealed carry,” Mike Newbern of Students for Concealed Carry told Guns.com during the NRA convention. “‘There’s a lot of drugs and alcohol on campus, 18-year-olds carrying guns,’ all these things we’ve been combating for years.”
Newbern cited Texas law, which only provides concealed carry licenses to those 21 years or older and prohibits the carrying of a firearm while consuming alcohol.
“And we already can carry concealed handguns off campus where all these parties are happening and we’re not shooting each other up in the streets, so I don’t understand how those things translate,” Newbern said.
Moms Demand Action spent just over $80,000 to run the ad on TV stations in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston through the end of the week and have seeded the video through multiple social media channels and purchased website placement.
If passed, the Texas campus carry bill would allow for concealed carry licensees to bring their firearms on public college campuses, where private universities would be exempt form the law.
A similar bill in Texas was struck down in 2011. In 2014, at least 14 states introduced campus carry legislation and 19 states did the same the year before, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty states ban concealed carry on campus – the list includes California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming, according to the NCSL.
This article was updated from a previous version with University of Texas/Texas Tribune polling results.