Class Warfare


Eileen Smith

In the interest of safety on college campuses, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has been working all session to make sure that there are more guns on college campuses. Senate Bill 354 would allow professors and students who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon to bring it on campus. Students must be at least 21 years old and “of sound mind” to bring firearms to college. So not only are you of legal age to drink, you’re also of legal age to shoot while binge drinking.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Senate. What should have been a slam dunk in a Republican-controlled Legislature has encountered considerable resistance that may ultimately kill the bill. Last week, Wentworth was forced to shut off debate on the bill after two Democrats who had previously supported it—Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Mario Gallegos of Houston—announced they would vote against it. Gallegos said he was opposing the legislation after listening to the concerns of constituents and university officials in his district, while Lucio said he would only support the legislation if universities can decide whether or not to ban licensed guns. On Monday, Wentworth once again lacked the 21 votes needed to bring the bill to the Senate floor.

To Wentworth’s credit, he made it clear that he wants only licensed students who have been through a 10-hour course to carry guns. (Ten hours? Girl scouts working for their next merit badges have to put in more hours than that.) The bill also stipulates that convicted felons, fugitives from justice, drug addicts and other delinquents would be barred from carrying guns on campus. Thankfully, convicted felons always respect the law. 

Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, is carrying the companion bill in the House. Last session Driver and Wentworth sponsored the same bill, which passed the Senate but stalled in the House. At the time, Garland suggested that the 2007 killings at Virginia Tech could have been stopped if another student had been armed. Officials at Virginia Tech came to a very different conclusion, advocating instead for increased federal gun control measures and strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. That measure was signed into law by President Bush in 2008. Last year’s shooting at the University of Texas-Austin reignited the debate over concealed weapons on campus, even though the gunman had legally obtained his AK-47.

Perhaps Wentworth is taking his cues from the rural Harrold Independent School District, which set up a concealed weapons policy in 2007 to allow guns in K-12 schools. Yes, kindergarten. You never know when Buzz Lightyear is going to completely lose it. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, even trained police officers, on average, hit their intended targets less than 20 percent of the time. Are we to assume that a third-grade teacher will be a better shot?

Utah is currently the only state to allow guns on campus. (If students aren’t allowed to drink or have sex, at least they’re allowed to pack heat.) In Arizona, lawmakers just passed a campus carry bill—which would only allow concealed weapons on sidewalks and streets, not buildings and classrooms—and awaits the governor’s signature. Similar gun legislation is making its way through Oklahoma, Michigan, and Tennessee. 

Putting more guns into the hands of the “right people,” as opposed to fewer guns into the hands of the wrong people, might just be crazy enough to work. Or it might be, you know, just plain crazy.