AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open that part of society to firearms.
More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as coauthors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Governor Rick Perry, a Republican who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he is in favor of the idea.
Texas has become a prime battleground for the issue because of its gun culture and its size, with 38 public universities and more than 500,000 students. It would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law. Colorado gives colleges the option, and several have allowed handguns.
Supporters of the legislation argue that gun violence on campuses, such as the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois in 2008, show that the best defense against a gunman is students who can shoot back.
“It’s strictly a matter of self-defense,’’ said state Senator Jeff Wentworth, Republican of San Antonio. “I don’t ever want to see repeated on a Texas college campus what happened at Virginia Tech, where some deranged, suicidal madman goes into a building and is able to pick off totally defenseless kids like sitting ducks.’’
Until the Virginia Tech killings, the worst college shooting in US history occurred at the University of Texas, when sniper Charles Whitman went to the top of the administration tower in 1966 and killed 16 people and wounded dozens. In September, a University of Texas student fired several shots from an assault rifle before killing himself.
Similar firearms measures have been proposed in about a dozen other states, but all face opposition. In Oklahoma, all 25 public college and university presidents declared opposition to a concealed-carry proposal.
William Powers, the University of Texas president, opposes concealed handguns, saying the mix of students, guns, and campus parties is too volatile.