Gun control is a topic that's dominated the news in the past few months. State legislatures are currently in the process of reviewing various bills calling for changes to concealed weapons carrying policies across the United States.
In many cases, proposed legislation could impact college students. States such as Texas and Georgia, among several others, are experiencing controversy as lawmakers push for measures either allowing or prohibiting gun possession on campuses.
In 2007, tragedy struck Virginia Tech, when 32 students were killed after a student opened fired on campus. And then there was the massacre in Aurora, Colo. during the summer, followed by the one in Newtown, Conn. in December, which led to the deaths of 20 innocent children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Such events raise questions about the proper ways to handle the prospect of concealed weapons carry at schools, including higher education institutions. Currently, concealed carry laws exist in 49 states, and 21 states ban guns on college campuses. In 23 states, the schools get to determine their own policies. And, the states of Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin have provisions allowing concealed weapons on campuses.
The debate over gun control at colleges and universities is progressing, and here are some key states where legislation is being considered.
Texas: In Texas, Senator Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, has filed Senate Bill (SB) 182, or the Campus Personal Protection Act, which has gained the support of more than a dozen state senators. The bill would permit those with concealed handgun licenses to carry weapons into academic buildings, though it would be up to the school to decide whether to allow guns in residence halls.
State Rep. Allen Fletcher also filed House Bill (HB) 972 on Feb. 5, serving as the "companion bill" to Birdwell's legislation.
As current state law stands, Texas schools are considered "gun-free" zones, meaning weapons are banned from classroom facilities and dorms. But, according to the Texas House of Representatives website, guns may be carried on campus grounds in areas such as parking lots and sidewalks.
However, if the legislation passes, private colleges and universities would be able to establish their own policies pertaining to gun carrying on campus. And, the law aims to ensure that "current law is not sidestepped," according to a Texas Senate press release. Schools may post notices stating that guns are prohibited at athletic events as well as venues like bars, hospitals and churches.
Meanwhile, a Houston-area community college was the scene of a shooting that left four hospitalized on Jan. 22 as students evacuated. The Huffington Post reported that at least 10 shots were fired following an altercation between two men outside Lone Star College's North Harris campus library. The original 22-year old student accused of executing the shootings at the school, Carlton N. Berry, Jr., has been cleared of charges, and attention now turns to Trey Foster, also 22, The New York Times reported.
Georgia: State Representative Charles Gregory, R-Kennesaw, has submitted HB 29, or the Campus Carry Act of 2013, which would eliminate current restrictions that prohibit the carrying of firearms on campuses.
Currently, Georgia law bans concealed weapons carry in government buildings and school safety zones, but the proposed legislation would remove colleges and universities from these categories. Nonetheless, the bill would "simply return private property rights to the owners of the property," Gregory said in a statement on his website, meaning the school would get to decide its policies.
First proposed in December, the bill was formally introduced last week and has been assigned to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. "Where law-abiding citizens are prohibited from carrying a guns, a path is cleared for criminal violence," Gregory said in his statement.
Colorado: The state that served as the site of both the Columbine and Aurora shootings might soon debate a bill that was introduced in the state House Thursday. HB 13-1226, sponsored by Boulder Republicans Rep. Claire Levy and Sen. Rollie Heath, would, if passed, ban concealed weapons on college campuses, including at events and in school buildings.
The two bill sponsors have ties to the University of Colorado (CU), which has played a central role in the state's gun-law debate. Despite CU's initial claims that the current state law allowing guns on campuses did not apply to the school, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against CU in March 2012.
Indiana: State Senator Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, has introduced SB 97, which would no longer classify schools as gun-free zones. The Huffington Post reported that Banks claims carrying firearms on campuses would help prevent sexual assault.
"That's what's compelling about this issue, is how many female students there are around the state, who have very specific and real reasons to be afraid for their safety on their campus," Banks told the Associated Press, according to the Huffington Post. "The number of sexual assault cases on campuses in alarming."
Essentially, the bill would illegalize the regulation of gun possession on land owned or leased by the state.
Wyoming: A piece of legislation that would have allowed those with concealed carry permits to hold guns on campuses was tabled Friday, Feb. 8. HB 105, or the Citizens' and Students' Self-Defense Act, would have enabled permit holders to bring firearms to public schools, community colleges and the University of Wyoming.
According to the Casper Star-Tribune, the decision to kill the bill was made after nearly two hours of testimony both for and against the bill.
Tennessee: In Tennessee, Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey's, R-Blountville, bill would permit those with handgun-carry permits to store guns in vehicles in parking lots, including those on campuses. The proposed legislation received unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 4. It will now make its way to the Senate floor.
Kentucky: HB 265, which Democratic lawmakers introduced Thursday, Feb. 7, would prohibit firearms on college campuses, in addition to requiring background checks for the private sales of weapons and enabling local governments to determine gun policies.
Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed SB 59 in December -- legislation that would have permitted guns on college campuses and other areas. The Huffington Post reported that Snyder disagreed with the fact that the bill would not allow public places, including state universities, to prohibit firearms.
Arizona: Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, has filed SB 1049, which would make it a felony to carry firearms on campuses. Specifically, the bill would expand the definition of the term "school" to include colleges and universities.
How has proposed legislation led to discussion on your college campus? Let us know in the comments below.