Home News Faculty lobbyist blames nonvoters for campus carry

Faculty lobbyist blames nonvoters for campus carry

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Faculty lobbyist Mary Dean responded to Texas State students and faculty members’ opposition of campus carry legislation at an open forum Monday morning.

Senate Bill 11, otherwise known as the campus carry bill, passed in the 84th Texas Legislature in June and is set to be implemented at public universities next fall.

“When this started, I didn’t have gray hair,” Dean said. “Sitting through the campus carry legislation has been an experience.”

She said Texans who chose not to vote in elections are the reason the “political water turned Republican” and allowed campus carry to pass, despite the strong presence of the legislation’s opponents.

Michel Conroy, chair of the Campus Carry Task Force, believes the legislation is not merely the result of tragic current events.

“I don’t think this is a reaction to the mass shootings,” Conroy said. “There is a gun culture in Texas…the political culture and the gun culture in Texas are responsible for this.”

Dean said the coming legislation could be even harder to contend with because some of the supporters are leaving.

Dean spoke from firsthand experience when she addressed educators at the forum hosted by the Texas Faculty Association. She is the only paid faculty lobbyist in the state of Texas.

As campus carry slowly made its way through the Texas Legislature, Dean was at the Capitol tracking the bill’s progress.

According to public data on the Texas Legislature’s website, a bill allowing concealed carry was first introduced approximately six years ago during the 82nd legislative session. Republican House Representative David Simpson introduced the bill, which was then called House Bill 86.

HB 86 died in the House committee, according to the data. Two months later, a companion bill, Senate Bill 358, also failed and was followed by yet another bill that never made it out of the House.

“When I sat through HB 86 people were just laughing,” Dean said. “Going into this most recent session, people were still saying it would never happen.”

Dean said there were so many campus carry supporters at the Capitol during the last legislative session, multiple overflow rooms had to be used.

“I was the only one not in the favor of guns in the room,” Dean said. “I felt like I was in a National Rifle Association meeting.”

Nineteen Republican congressmen authored the version of campus carry legislation that was passed last summer.

Dean said SB 11 had two failed amendments that would have allowed people to carry concealed handguns without a license and lowered the minimum age to obtain a license from 21 to 18. She is afraid these proposals will make a reappearance during the next legislative session.

“Every one of you should go visit your representative and let them know what you think,” Dean said. “Call them—not just once, but once a day.”

Dean said faculty members are not allowed to use the university’s phones or computers to contact their representative or to research the bill.

“The Legislature says they don’t hear from faculty enough, but by law, unless we are invited to testify, we are not legally allowed to speak on a day that we have classes or meetings,” said Elizabeth Skerpan-Wheeler, president of Texas State’s chapter of TFA.

Dean said members of the Texas State University System have to be careful regarding the establishment and implementation of campus carry.

If public universities try to minimize the impact of the bill, legislators have threatened to take away all university discretion that gives officials the ability to determine which campus buildings will be gun free zones.

Skerpan-Wheeler said the bill did not originally allow for “carve-out” zones. “Carve-out” is the terminology used to refer to zones on the university where guns will not be allowed.

The current language of the bill allows for carve-out zones, but only if they do not hinder an individual’s ability to carry on campus and are reasonable, Skerpan-Wheeler said. However, the legislature did not give any definition of what is considered reasonable.

“You’re talking Brian Birdwell (the author of SB 11) reasonable,” Dean said. “Do you know Birdwell? If not, you’re lucky. His version of reasonable won’t be yours.”

Dean said it is illegal for faculty to deny students the right to carry in their classrooms or offices.

“We are in an environment where you can pretty much count on any pushback (against the implementation of campus carry) getting some kind of repercussion,” Skerpan-Wheeler said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I get that this is a student newspaper, and I get that most of the “journalists” working for this paper were probably in elementary or middle school when the campus carry movement began, but that’s no excuse for failing to perform even a cursory Google search to check some of the facts presented in this article. The level of misinformation in this piece is ATROCIOUS.

    The first campus carry bills were filed in the 81st Texas Legislative Session, not the 82nd, and they were filed by Senator Jeff Wentworth and Rep. Joe Driver, not by Rep. David Simpson, who wasn’t even in the Texas Legislature at that time. Both bills had a very real chance of passing, and nobody was laughing.

    Rep. Driver’s bill (HB 1893) was coauthored by 75 of the House’s 150 Representatives, including several Democrats.

    Senator Wentworth’s bill (SB 1164) was coauthored by 14 of the Senate’s 31 Senators, including two prominent Democrats. It passed out of the Senate by a vote of 20 to 11 (four of the 20 were Democrats). However, due to a Democratic “chub” (aka filibuster) of a Republican-backed voter ID bill in the House, Senator Wentworth’s campus carry bill (along with hundreds of other bills that were still pending at the time of the filibuster) never reached the House floor.

    In 2011, the primary campus carry bills were SB 354 by Senator Wentworth and HB 750 by Rep. Driver. SB 354 was coauthored by 15 of the state’s 31 Senators, and HB 750 was coauthored by 88 of the House’s 150 Representatives. Opponents in the Senate were able to use the Senate’s old two-thirds rule to block a floor vote on SB 354 (Sen. Wentworth only had 20 of the 21 votes he needed to reach the two-thirds threshold for a floor vote), but Senator Wentworth offered the SB 354 language as an amendment to another bill, and that amendment was accepted by a vote of 20-10 (one of the 20 was Senator John Whitmire, a prominent Democrat and the longest-serving member of the Texas Senate). That bill was later killed on a point of order in the House.

    In 2013, the primary campus carry bills were SB 182 by Senator Brian Birdwell and HB 972 by Representative Allen Fletcher. SB 182 was coauthored by 14 of the Senate’s 31 Senators, and HB 972 was coauthored by 65 of the House’s 150 Representatives. HB 972 passed out of the House by a vote of 102 to 41; however, opponents in the Senate were again able to use the two-thirds rule to block a floor vote (as in 2011, the sponsor only had 20 of the 21 votes he needed to reach the two-thirds threshold for a floor vote).

    During both the 2009 and 2011 Texas Legislative Sessions, campus carry was every bit as hot a topic on Texas college campuses and in the Texas Capitol as it was during the 2015 Texas Legislative Session, and the consensus was that it had a very real chance of passing.

    At the beginning of the 2015 session, pundits across the state said that, due to Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick’s promise to do away with the Senate’s traditional two-thirds rule, campus carry had a better chance than ever of passing.

    At no point during the 2015 Texas Legislative Session did any lawmaker offer or seriously consider an amendment that would have allowed unlicensed persons to carry handguns on college campuses or that would have lowered the age limit from 21 to 18.

    Seriously, I thought even student newspapers had fact checkers.

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