Texas Senate may take up campus guns bill

By JIM VERTUNO Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A bill to allow concealed handguns in Texas college classrooms failed its first big test.

Another failure in the Senate on Monday, or another long delay without a vote, could mean the measure that was expected to easily pass this session could be holstered for another two years.

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, tried to pass it last week but abruptly cut off debate when two Democrats withdrew their support, leaving it one vote shy of the 21 needed under Texas Senate rules to vote on a bill.

Wentworth said he plans to try for a vote again Monday. The weekend delay will have either given Wentworth time to rally support or allowed opponents to dig in to block it.

"I'm hopeful and cautiously optimistic," Wentworth said.

The bill would allow Texas concealed handgun license holders, who must be 21 years old and pass a training course, to carry their weapons into classrooms.

The measure is facing stiff resistance from college administrators and students groups across the state who worry campus guns will lead to bloodshed.

Supporters say the bill is a critical self-defense measure to giving students a fighting chance in shootings similar to the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007.

"I want to give law-abiding citizens a reasonable means of defense beyond duck and hide," Wentworth said.

Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, withdrew this support on Thursday and said he needed the weekend to think about it after getting flooded with calls from colleges and police in his district.

Democrats plan to file several amendments to allow each college campus to decide on concealed weapons. Wentworth said he will fight to hold off those changes.

The Senate stall was unexpected. The Senate passed the measure in 2009 and the House version has more 80 co-authors in the 150-member, Republican-dominated chamber.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said he supports the measure and is expected to sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Texas would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law.