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Texas House approves bill that would allow guns on college campuses

A man adjusts a girl's hat before she takes aim with an airsoft gun during the NRA Youth Day at the National Rifle Association's annual meet
A man adjusts a girl's hat before she takes aim with an airsoft gun during the NRA Youth Day at the National Rifle Association's annual meet

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas House of Representatives on Monday gave final approval to a proposal to allow concealed handgun license holders to carry guns into buildings on college campuses.

The proposal, which was approved on a vote of 102-41, would allow public colleges and universities to opt out of allowing guns in buildings after consulting with students, faculty and staff. Private colleges and universities could opt in.

The measure, known as the campus carry bill, now goes to the Senate, where a different proposal has stalled in committee.

The author of the House proposal, Republican Allen Fletcher, said he was not trying to arm people so that they could be heroes during mass shootings on college campuses, but to protect themselves.

Texas is one of 22 states than ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen states introduced bills in 2012 to allow concealed carry on college campus, and none of those proposals passed.

In Texas, where the Legislature meets every other year, a campus carry proposal failed to pass in 2011.

In January, three people were shot when a 22-year-old man allegedly opened fire on a campus of the Lone Star community college system near Houston, Texas.

The December shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults died, has prompted President Barack Obama to call for tighter federal gun control laws. States such as New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Colorado have passed tighter controls.

Other states, such as gun-friendly Texas, have moved in the opposite direction, considering laws to allow more people to be armed.

Among the opponents of allowing guns on campuses are University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers and advocacy groups such as Texas Gun Sense. John Woods, a board member of that group, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas whose girlfriend, Maxine Turner, was killed six years ago during the shooting at Virginia Tech.

"I have owned guns before, and I support the Second Amendment, but putting guns in classrooms is crazy," Woods said in a statement.

The Texas House on Monday also gave final approval to several other gun measures, including one that would prohibit the enforcement of any federal law on firearms that does not exist under state law. That proposal now goes to the Senate.

Lawmakers in several states have proposed laws seeking to nullify some of the new federal gun restrictions proposed by Obama's administration, such as expanded background checks for gun buyers.

"Few things are more sacred in the state of Texas than our constitutional right to bear arms," House Republican Caucus Chairman Brandon Creighton said Monday in a statement. "As the federal government continues to introduce measures that could infringe upon the Second Amendment, members of the Texas House Republican Caucus are fighting back."

(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune and Andrew Hay)

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