After an ongoing battle that has lasted several legislative sessions, Texas might possibly be poised to allow students and university staff who have right-to-carry permits to carry concealed firearms on college campuses. The fate of the bill is not yet decided, but there is good reason to believe that 2015 could be the year when Texas students become fully capable of exercising their right to self-defense, regardless of where they are. For some insight into the big picture, we contacted Zachary Zalneraitis, director of public relations for the nationwide organization Students for Concealed Carry.
America's First Freedom: Texas seems like a receptive place for campus carry, but we’ve seen bills in previous sessions run out of steam. How do you feel about 2015 in comparison to previous years?
Zachary Zalneraitis: We’re very optimistic about our chances in Texas this year, but there’s still always the chance that something comes out of nowhere, like when Michigan’s governor vetoed a campus carry bill a few years ago. That being said, Gov. (Greg) Abbott’s support for firearms bills, as well as the fact that we’re already through the Senate, means we’re already past many of the roadblocks we’ve hit in the past.
AFF: Is it getting easier to make your case as more data becomes available, especially now that Colorado has been a campus carry state for a couple of years?ZZ: Having the data to back up our claims, or at least counter claims to the contrary, definitely helps when we’re out talking to people who are interested in what we’re doing. We also have to be careful not to take that data and draw unsupported conclusions, though. Our arguments tend to be more closely scrutinized, and for that reason we must be precise with what we are advocating for and how we present it.
AFF: What is the most pernicious piece of misinformation that you have heard from the anti-carry crowd?
ZZ: The biggest issue we have is the character attacks on college students and how they are portrayed. The opposition is taking the best and brightest students in the country, who are going to be engineers, scientists and doctors, and painting a picture of them as drunken, irresponsible kids. This is despite the fact that these are licensed adults who responsibly carry a firearm for self-defense off campus without issues. Many are either graduate students or adults returning for degrees—even faculty or staff who would want to carry for self-defense.
AFF: Besides Texas, what other states should we be watching? Are there any upcoming developments of note?
ZZ: Florida has been seeing great support for their campus carry bill, and the House bill (HB 4005) has passed through all its committees and is waiting on the Senate bill (SB 176) before it goes to the floor. The Senate bill, however, is being intentionally stalled by committee chairs who refuse to put the bill on the schedule for debate, despite the support for it. We’re also very optimistic about the bill in Nevada, which just passed the Assembly and is headed for the Senate. We narrowly missed bills in Montana and Wyoming, but are encouraged by the support we’ve been getting across the country.