Concealed carry on campuses made strong advances with bills in Wyoming and Florida passing out of committee and one bill in Texas gaining support. Indiana and Montana recently introduced similar bills, and North Dakota is reportedly considering such legislation.
Rep. Allen Jaggi (R.) was the primary sponsor of House Bill 114, the Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act. It would allow for concealed carry of weapons at schools, universities, and colleges as well as governmental buildings.
It passed its first hurdle this week, with the House Judiciary Committee voting 8-1 to approve the bill and send it to the House floor.
Jaggi’s communications director did not respond to a request for comment as of press time. Jaggi told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle he believes it is unconstitutional that the state currently designates the areas his bill would allow concealed carry as "gun free zones."
"No matter how many laws we have, the people who are there to do harm don't care about our laws," said Jaggi.
Wyoming Gun Owners (WGO), a state-level group that advocates for gun rights, supports the bill because it believes it would deter potential campus shooters.
Anthony Bouchard, WGO's executive director, said Wyoming’s bill was modeled after the present law in Utah, which he called a "gem." He indicated law-abiding citizens in Utah have been allowed concealed carry on campuses and governmental buildings for 15 years.
"It’s a real life study, looking at Utah for solutions," said Bouchard. He said he expects Wyoming’s bill as it "progresses, the fight will be heated up." The Senate "will be where our fight will be even harder."
"Gun free zones aren’t working," Bouchard said. "When citizens are armed, a shooter won’t know who is ready to fight back." He added, "criminals don’t want to confront citizens who are armed."
Florida’s bill was introduced last month, and the state is moving quickly with its legislation. HB 4005 passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with a vote of 8 to 4. It is now in the Higher Education & Workforce Subcommittee.
"Gun free zones of any kind are a recipe for tragedy, and although journalists at large seem to focus on the very worst of these situations, they never seem to take notice when a would be shooter is thwarted, such as most recently in New Hope Minnesota, where even one of the councilmen responded by drawing a gun," said Ben Neumann, the former president of Students for Concealed Carry at Indiana University-South Bend, in an email.
Neumann fought for years for concealed carry on Indiana campuses. "An individual bent on inflicting harm and pain has absolutely no regard for laws or rules. A few signs will not stop a murderer, but they will prevent law abiding citizens from defending themselves."
Some of the newspapers in Indiana have voiced their opposition, and one Indystar opinion piece said the gun bill threatens Hoosier’s safety.
The bill in Texas entitled the Campus Personal Protection Act is gaining momentum, with 19 senators now endorsing it. The bill would allow students, faculty, and staff members with concealed licenses to carry on campuses.
Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick (R.) took to Facebook on Wednesday night to dispel media reports that he changed his position on the legislation. "There were inaccurate reports in the media and across the Internet yesterday regarding my comments concerning Open Carry legislation. Despite reports to the contrary, I have never changed my position on the issue. I remain a steadfast supporter of the second amendment and Open Carry legislation."
"Forcing our institutions of higher educations to allow guns on campus is the wrong answer for our college communities—and is the opposite of local control. We side with the vast majority of Texas students, college presidents, faculty, and university police chiefs who oppose this type of reckless legislation," said Claire Larson, a volunteer with the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America in a prepared statement.
"College life is already rife with academic pressures, alcohol, and drug abuse; forcing schools to introduce guns into the mix is dangerous and doesn’t make sense. Campus carry does nothing to respect or protect the Second Amendment," Larson said.
She also said Patrick is caving to extremists and putting college students’ lives at risk.
"Lt. Patrick is putting the lives of our college students at risk to protect himself from a small but vocal group of people that choose intimidation tactics over responsibility—we urge Lt. Governor Patrick to resist making laws to appease extremists and to instead prioritize the safety of our college campuses."
"What they are saying is that college students are too irresponsible to carry guns," said Zachary Zalneraitis, central regional director for Students for Concealed Carry. He said the bills are not "changing who can carry guns but where they can carry guns." He indicated people who are already carrying guns responsibly everywhere else, such as grocery store, parking lots, etc., should be allowed to carry on campuses.
"The only guns being prevented from coming on campus are those in the hands of law-abiding citizens," Zalneraitis said and that "guarantees disarmed citizens for criminals." SCC is "very appreciative of the actions taken by the legislatures and lawmakers in several states."
Lawmakers in Montana also began to addressing gun issues on campuses this week. Senate Bill 143 was introduced and would prohibit the Board of Regents and university system employees from "regulation or restricting the possession of firearms on university property." North Dakota is also considering a measure to allow concealed carry on campuses.