AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — This week's gunfire at a Houston-area college prompted new calls Wednesday for allowing concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons into Texas college buildings and classrooms as a measure of self-defense.
Texas lawmakers already are considering a bill that allows concealed handguns in classrooms. A similar measure failed in 2011, but last month's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., had already helped renew the debate over safety in schools, and Tuesday's gunfire at Lone Star College had supporters looking to rally more support.
Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who filed the Campus Personal Protection Act last week, called the Lone Star College shooting a prime example for the need for his bill.
"It affirms what we know is true: When you disarm law-abiding citizens that we ought to trust, we make them defenseless," Birdwell said.
The prospects for the bill's passage are uncertain in a session that began Jan. 8 and runs until Memorial Day. So far, 14 senators, all Republicans, in the 31-member Senate have signed on in support of Birdwell's bill. But in 2011, the measure was backed by a large majority in the House and Senate and Gov. Rick Perry, a concealed handgun license holder, before dying without a final vote at the end of the session.
College administrators have generally not supported the bill in the past, saying they worry more guns will spark more campus violence and suicide. Supporters call it a critical self-defense measure and guns rights issue.
"It levels the playing field," in terms of safety, said Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. "We have to allow people the option for self-protection."
And if the shooter at Lone Star College had turned the gun on others "and blasted folks ... I would have been thankful if somebody with a concealed handgun would have shot the people killing innocent folks," Campbell said.
Texas passed its concealed handgun license law in 1995. License holders must be at least 21 and pass a training course.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said supporters should "be careful about using an incident like that for political gain," Ellis said.
Ellis, who opposes the bill, said professors may be intimidated by students if they are worried about who may be armed.
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