Concealed weapons on Texas lawmakers agenda

FORT WORTH, Texas — Jason Bowman would feel safer walking to his night classes at Tarrant County College if he had his concealed handgun. But he leaves it behind because state law doesn’t let him carry it on campus.The 23-year-old Benbrook man is among those hoping that will change soon, as state lawmakers consider the issue.”I applaud campus police, but there is absolutely no way they can be all places at all times,” said Bowman, a paramedic and firefighter. “Please don’t make me prove that I will stand up and fight an armed man without my weapon if (there is) danger. At least give me my gun, too.”The expansion of the concealed-carry law is just one of several firearm proposals ricocheting around the Texas Capitol, drawing fire from gun safety advocates.Among the bills this year are efforts to let Texans buy rifles and shotguns in noncontiguous states; allow counties to regulate noise, which could affect shooting ranges; and let employees with concealed-handgun permits leave their guns in their locked cars at work.Even as some proposals seem to be gaining support, one hot gun topic _ letting Texans openly carry handguns _ seems to be losing steam, as supporters fear they won’t find a lawmaker to carry the bill.”It’s not over yet,” said Mike Stollenwerk, a co-founder of the OpenCarry.org nationwide effort.Other measures could let hunters be charged with animal cruelty and have to defend their actions in court, and even allow “physically disabled people” to use lasers to help them hunt, expanding on the 2007 law that allowed blind hunters to use lasers.”It’s just like they are trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Marsha McCartney, president of the North Texas Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “That’s the usual case with gun laws.”Last week, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, filed bills to let students licensed to carry concealed handguns take their weapons on campus.Jason Woods, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, opposes the bill and wrote a resolution _ passed by UT’s student government _ that supports the current handgun ban at Texas colleges.Two years ago, Woods was a Virginia Tech student who lost his girlfriend in the mass shooting that killed 32 people. He thinks allowing guns on campus will create more danger, even boost suicide rates.”A campus is a really safe place right now,” said Woods, 24, who is studying molecular biology. “School shootings in general are low-probability events. Any change that would allow more guns on campus would create more potential for things to go wrong.”Wentworth said he wants to make Texas schools safe. “I have no desire to wake up one morning and read in the newspaper … that 32 Texas college students were gunned down like sitting ducks by some deranged gunman, as happened at Virginia Tech, due to a state law that makes college kids defenseless,” Wentworth said.

  • ANNA M. Tinsley