guns

The UTSA Student Government Association (SGA) will ask students to vote on a much-debated legislation that proposes allowing handguns on Texas universities, the Senate Bill 354. But chances are that student’s votes won’t count at all.

SGA’s poll might come too late to influence the decision in the state senate, where the bill might be voted before SGA voices the demands of the student community.

The proposed bill would allow Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holders to carry handguns on college campuses. Texas law requires that individuals be at least 21 years of age, pass a 10-hour training course and undergo a criminal background check in order to get their license.

SGA plans to use the results of student voting to determine the university’s official position, which will be voiced to the Texas legislature for consideration. Universities are supposed to inform their state representatives on their position regarding the legislation; this responsibility falls upon the student governments.

Students at UT Austin have already expressed their worries about the bill passing. Even Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) who represents the district including Texas A&M, withdrew his support from the bill as the legislation neared the last stages of senate approval. UTSA’s Student Government has not yet decided where it stands.

“Initially SGA was going to take a stance, but as it is such a controversial issue, we wanted the students to express their opinions in a more formal setting,” SGA President- elect Xavier Johnson said. Even though Johnson is not yet president, he fully supports the decision to institute a poll, decision that was presented by the current SGA president Derek Trimm.

“We felt that UTSA students needed an official poll and student government resolution to express the sentiments of UTSA, based on conversations with our constituents and during interactions with leaders of organizations on campus,” Trimm said.

Voting will be conducted on ASAP on April 19 and 20.

SGA might be running behind schedule. Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) intended to reintroduce the bill on April 7 for a vote, but suffered a setback when he lacked the necessary votes to reintroduce the bill to the floor, unintentionally giving more time for SGA to determine where UTSA stands.

The SB 354 bill was delayed when two democrats, Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) and Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), withdrew their support last Thursday.

“I’m hopeful this is just a bump in the road,” said Sen. Wentworth to the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t have a very clear crystal ball.”

While most states have rejected such legislation, last year Utah became the first state to pass a bill that is as broad-based as the one proposed by Sen. Wentworth.

Other states have implemented major changes in their legislation regarding concealed weapons on campuses.

Arizona voted to allow people to carry handguns when walking or driving through campuses on public streets and sidewalks. Colorado recently voted to allow universities to choose whether they allow handguns on campus.

Controversy has surrounded the issue since 2009 when early, short-lived versions of the handgun proposal made way to the Texas legislature. Senator Gallegos, who just withdrew his support from Wentworth’s bill, voted in favor of such a measure in 2009. This time, after talking to members of his district, he confirmed his decision was an absolute no.

The other senator who retracted his support from the SB 354 was Sen. Lucio, who agreed to reinstate his support only if an amendment were to be accepted which would allow colleges and universities to decide for themselves whether to continue being gun-free zones.

If the SGA conducts the poll on the days they plan, the Senate might have already decided the issue before UTSA’s students vote on ASAP, leaving UTSA unrepresented, as it currently is.

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