One of the top pro-gun bills before Texas lawmakers this session was green-lighted Monday for a House floor vote this weekend, and a top backer predicted approval there for the plan to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their handguns into college classrooms.
The Calendars Committee scheduled the floor vote for Saturday in the House. Getting the bill even that far is a significant development for supporters of an issue that erupted into one of the most contentious of the session two years ago. In 2011, the issue died without a vote in the House despite a majority of member signing on in support.
This year, the House version of the bill would eliminate the current ban on concealed weapons at colleges and universities, but it still allows public schools to ban weapons if they first meet with students, faculty and staff to consider their input. Private schools would be allowed to opt in.
Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, one of the primary authors of the bill, said the opt-out language has softened opposition from higher education officials who worry that allowing guns on campus will increase campus violence and suicide. He said he expects the House will approve it but declined to discuss its prospects in the Senate.
"I think it will pass," in the House, Flynn said Monday. "Texas is a rural state ... Most of the opposition has been in Austin."
The Senate version of the bill has not been scheduled for a vote, and its prospects in the final month of the session in that chamber are uncertain. The Senate passed a similar version of the bill in 2011 after a vigorous debate, but only after it was added to another bill as an amendment. Doing that allowed supporters to bypass a Senate rule that requires at least 21 of 31 senators to agree to vote on a bill.
University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa earlier this year wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Perry urging a guns on campus bill not pass. Cigarroa's letter said students, parents, faculty and campus police worry that allowing guns into classrooms will create a culture of fear among students and teachers.