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Texas college students may soon be able to carry their guns to class

Texas state senator Brian Birdwell discussing a bill that would expand the right to carry concealed handguns on campus. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Ricardo B. Brazziell)

Texas college students may soon be able to carry their guns to class.

A bill to allow licensed carriers to have handguns on public college and university campuses was given preliminary approval on Wednesday by the state’s Republican-controlled senate. The measure would repeal an existing law that prohibits licenses holders from having firearms on school grounds. The bill is expected to get a final vote on Thursday and then move to the House, which also enjoys a strong Republican majority.

Its last stop will be Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), who authored the bill, argued that the current restrictions on concealed license carriers impede Second Amendment rights.

“Students have expressed concerns to me about their ability to protect themselves,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s time we don’t imperil their safety.”

The bill would allow permit-holders — people 21 and older who have passed a background check and shooting test — to take their firearms on public campuses. However, private colleges and universities could still prohibit them.

The measure was approved by a 20-11 vote.

“I am proud of the fact that the Texas Senate is making history while defending life, liberty and our Second Amendment Right,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement praising the senate vote.

One of the bill’s most ardent opponents is University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven, a retired U.S. Navy admiral who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. Earlier this year, he sent a letter to legislators warning them such a law would make campuses “less-safe.”

“There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds,” he wrote, according to the Texas Tribune.

Some Democratic state senators seem to agree.

“I cannot imagine a young person having to go visit with a professor about possibly being on probation, upset over a grade, or to discuss some contentious issue related to an assignment and having a gun easily accessible,” State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) said, according to KTRK-TV.

The National Rifle Association has back the bill.

“During the years in which the Legislature has failed to pass campus carry legislation, high-profile shootings have occurred at the University of Texas at Austin and several blocks from the Texas A&M campus in College Station, and a stabbing incident in which more than a dozen people were wounded took place at Lone Star College’s Cy-Fair campus,” the pro-gun lobby said last week in a statement. “These locations are currently classified as ‘gun-free zones,’ but in reality, they are simply places where [concealed handgun license holders] are rendered defenseless against criminals under current law.”

In a separate move earlier this week, the Texas Senate cleared a bill that would allow people licensed to conceal their firearms to carry their them in open sight — in a shoulder or belt holster “like the Old West,” as the Dallas Morning News reported. The bill would not apply to college and university campuses.

“It’s disturbing to see some of our lawmakers ignoring the majority of Texans and college stakeholders who oppose guns on campus and instead bowing to the gun lobby and extremist interests,” Sandy Chasse of the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told the AP.