Republicans in the Texas Senate approved a measure allowing concealed handguns on public college campuses for anyone license to carry a firearm.
The measure, part of a state universities funding bill, had sat for some time just a few votes shy of passage. The bill was heavily opposed to by higher education official, including leaders at most Texas public universities.
The small minority of Democrats in the Texas legislature tried to stop the measure, but lost when a simple majority of the Senate passed the measure. There are only 12 Democrats in the Senate, a 31-member body.
“The ramifications of allowing an individual with a concealed handgun license to carry a weapon on campus would create dangerous situations and in essence, put faculty, staff, students and University guests in the line of fire,” said a statement from the University of Texas at Arlington in March.
Law enforcement organizations throughout the state have also warned against the legislation arguing it might increase violence.
Now that the measure has passed the Senate it must also pass the House where a similar bill is on the table and will soon be up for a vote. Supporters fell that with the Senate’s passage, the House will act quickly to push the legislation through to the governor’s office.
"Campus carry has more momentum than a runaway freight train," W. Scott Lewis of Students for Concealed Carry, a nationwide group backing the measure, told AP.
Proponents of the bill argue allowing guns on campuses increases safety. If more people are armed for good, they contend, fewer are likely to risk criminal or violent activity. They cite past school shooting incidents where criminals had the upper hand because students were defenseless.
“We're basically fish in a barrel," Lewis once remarked. "This is about changing the odds."
"There was no one there to defend themselves in a gun-free zone that was a victim-rich zone," said Republican Senator Jeff Wentworth, recalling past school shootings at Virginia Tech. "I'm trying to avoid that type of situation."
Opponents disagree, arguing putting more guns on campus creates opportunity for greater violence and mass confusion.
"I can't imagine the horrors if this passes," State Democratic Senator Judith Zaffirini said, noting multiple guns at a scene could cause mass confusion for police and witnesses.
Laws permitting guns on college campus have been rejected in at least 23 US states since 2007, with a similar bill having been rejected in Texas in 2009.
Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry is expected to sign it into law if the bill does pass the House.