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State Lawmakers Push For Conceal and Carry Guns On College Campuses

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A Tarrant County lawmaker is among legislators pushing for guns on college campuses – allowing conceal and carry permit holders to bring their weapons. Proponents say it’s all about self defense; opponents say it’s a recipe for disaster.

State Representative Giovanni Capriglione, Republican from Southlake, is sponsor of one of the bills to allow guns on college campuses -- public and private.

“HB 706 would allow law abiding citizens to carry handguns on campus," Capriglione said presenting his bill for committee discussion.  "Today, we only allow criminals to carry handguns on campus.  This needs to change.”

University of North Texas music history professor Thomas Sovik told lawmakers he’s had a number of threats and a couple of violent classroom outbursts by students in the recent past. He would like the ability to protect himself and others.   

“In the event of a mass shooting, an armed and duly licensed citizen of the state of Texas can step up to do something beyond that which is called for in the university’s emergency plan, which is call 9-1-1," Sovik said.  "This is simply not acceptable, not in Texas.”

But UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa sent a letter to the Governor this week saying students, faculty and staff do not want guns on campuses.

At SMU in Dallas, students Moses Williams and RoniKennison agree.

“You never know what could happen on a college campus," Williams said.  "It’s always been an unstable, sorta crazy environment, a lot of alcohol.  I think something could happen if we were allowed to carry concealed weapons around campus.”

“I think that it is not a good idea," Kennison said. "That would only add more opportunity for situations to escalate.”

Austin Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay told lawmakers police are well trained. Civilians with conceal and carry permits generally are not.

“The presence of non-sworn armed individuals who have not undergone the same level of training is likely to add to further danger in these situations,” Gay told lawmakers.

But guns on campus proponent Alice Tripp of the Texas State Rifle Association told lawmakers, “We are our own first responders.”    

The bills remain in committee and a long way from becoming law.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.