Legislators, LSCS debate campus carry

Legislators, LSCS debate campus carry
Updated June 3 at 9:25 a.m.
As of June 1, Senate Bill 11 was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott after the legislation was signed by the Texas House and Senate. The final version of the bill allows universities and colleges to establish gun-free zones and rules for how the weapons are stored on campuses.

Only concealed handgun license holders would be allowed to bring firearms on campus. Under the modified bill with amendments from the Senate, private universities would be allowed to opt out of campus carry.

Posted June 3 at 7:55 a.m.
In the wake of Senate Bill 11, Lone Star College System officials continue to discuss the potential financial, staffing and social effects the campus carry legislation could pose on faculty and students at the Tomball campus as well as several other locations.

“It’s two levels—one is what are the safety concerns we need to look at either positively or negatively of having guns on campus, and what is the impact on the learning environment,” said Ray Laughter, LSCS vice chancellor for external affairs. “Those are issues we will take very seriously in the best way to implement what [the Legislature] might pass.”

SB 11 may pose a number of possible 2016-17 budget changes for the LSCS board to iron out in meetings over the next few months, LSCS board Chairwoman Linda Good said.

“If a local option isn’t included, we still have to figure out how to live with this law,” Good said. “Everything from hiring more police officers to training our employees in conflict resolution could potentially be a part of this.”

As of May 27, the modified version of SB 11 includes House Republican amendments designed to exempt campus carry from health facilities, allow colleges to create gun-free zones and a stipulation that private colleges must also implement the legislation. However, the Senate did not concur May 28 with the modified bill approved by the House.

Five legislators from each chamber were selected to serve on a conference committee to iron out the final bill that will need to be approved by both the Senate and House. The regular legislative session ended June 1.

Throughout the session, LSCS officials have pushed for a local option amendment to the bill, which would allow local trustees and university regents to determine whether campus carry is permitted at individual institutions, Laughter said.

“Everybody that lives in our district votes on those trustees to run the college,” Laughter said. “We’ve been expressing [local control] to our legislators as a good option. Every campus is different—some have day care centers, dormitories and some have high school students taking classes. All of those factors have different types of issues that might affect having guns on campus.”

The existing law allows individuals with a concealed handgun license to bring handguns to campus, but the weapons must be left in vehicles, Laughter said. Residents are required to be 21 years of age or older to obtain a CHL, and an estimated 59 percent of LSCS students are 21 or older, according to demographic data.

In preparation for SB 11, LSCS held two public forums in late March at its Cy-Fair and Kingwood campuses to educate the community and gather feedback through polls. A majority of students who attended the forums are not in favor of campus carry, and no additional forums are scheduled for now, Laughter said.

The LSCS board of trustees will consider poll results and discussions from the public forum in the formation of future policies, Good said.

“I’m very pleased that our board and our administration involved students and faculty in that discussion early on before we had any kind of discussion at the board level,” Laughter said. “It’s a really important step we took. We felt we owed them an opportunity to do that.”


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