Lawmakers at the local and national level held hearings related to gun rights laws in state legislatures and Congress on Thursday. The hearings ranged from allowing concealed weapons on college campuses, to cross-state recognition of concealed carry permits.
Some of the legislation includes revived measures that failed two years ago in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.
The hearings came the day after a U.S. district court judge in Texas ruled that it is legal for non-residents to buy guns and then travel to their home state with the weapon. That ruling, would most directly impact Washington, D.C. residents since carrying a firearm is almost completely prohibited in the district. The ruling will likely be challenged by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Guns on Campus
In Texas, lawmakers held court over galleries of both pro- and anti-gun advocates who filled public galleries as they discussed legislation about legalizing handguns on college campuses and open carry everywhere else.
Similar measures have failed in past years, but are expected to pass this time. The student senate of Texas A&M University, the largest institution of higher education in the state, already came out in support of concealed weapons on their campus in December.
They cite personal protection and safety as part of the reason for the support.
The decision of the more than 56,000-strong student body argues that just because campus is legally a gun-free zone, that’s not enough to deter criminals. They say that potentially unarmed victims can be preyed upon “completely unopposed.”
But some are enraged by what they say is an irresponsible decision by lawmakers to even consider guns on campuses. Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement that the state’s Lt. Governor Dan Patrick fast-tracked a bill that will make campuses more dangerous—not safer.
“All Texas students deserve freedom from fear and violence at school,” wrote Hinojosa. “This campus carry bill is unnecessary and dangerously reckless.”
According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the majority of college campuses prohibit guns on campuses and use their own security and local police to maintain order and safety.
In Kansas, the state Senate held a hearing for a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons without a license. If the bill ultimately passes, Kansas would only be the fifth state with such a law.
It is legal in all 50 states, with some variances, to carry a concealed weapon.
Gun victim advocacy group, Moms Demand Action, said in a statement that the law would introduce concealed weapons onto city streets, and in K-12 schools and public parks. They said it would also confuse law enforcement officials’ ability to discern between dangerous criminals and legal, gun-carrying citizens.
In Utah, a previously defeated bill to allow adults 21 years and over to carry a concealed, unloaded gun without a permit has been revived. Idaho and South Dakota are considering something similar.
Loaded or not, according to an unofficial estimate by the Violence Policy Center, from May 2007 to the present, 722 people have died at the hands of people carrying concealed weapons. The Center notes that no comprehensive data exists on such killings.
Some of the most controversial legislation heard on Thursday was at the federal level, though. The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas would override state concealed carry laws and act in a similar manner to a state driver’s license that allows you to drive legally in every state.
If the Act passes and becomes law, every state would be obliged to recognize concealed carry permits from other states, even for states with less strict permitting processes.