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Movement to Allow Concealed Weapons on College Campuses Triggers Debate

A handful of states are considering laws that would allow college students to carry concealed weapons on campus, triggering a fierce debate.
/ Source: NBC News

A handful of states are considering laws that would allow college students to carry concealed weapons on campus, triggering a fierce debate across the nation.

Seven states already allow students 21 and older to carry guns on campus under certain circumstances. But advocates of campus gun rights say that's not enough.

In Texas, two bills are making their way through legislation: Last month, the state Senate passed a "campus-carry" measure. If the bill passes in the state House, Texas will be the largest state to allow students to carry concealed weapons to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, the state is also on the verge of passing "open-carry" legislation, which would allow residents to carry weapons on their shoulders or in a holster out in the open, a drastic overhaul of current gun laws. Both are being led by Republicans, who at one point appeared likely to attach the "campus-carry" bill to the "open-carry" proposal, according to the Dallas Morning News.

But not everyone in Texas supports the legislation.

"There's so much violence already and to just give immature students guns, it's just ridiculous," Anaid Gonzalez, a sophomore at Lone Star College in Houston, told NBC News.

Jackson County Sheriff A.J. "Andy" Louderback, left, confers with Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawtohorne, center, before giving testimony at a hearing where lawmakers discussed whether to legalize concealed handguns on college campuses and open carry everywhere else on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, in Austin, Texas.Eric Gay / AP

Other students say being able to have a gun could prevent assaults and robberies on campus, and keep students safer if a shooter opens fire on campus.

"Students have expressed concerns to me about their ability to protect themselves," said the bill's author, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, according to The Associated Press. "It's time we don't imperil their safety."

Lobbyists are actively trying to stop the campus gun movement in its tracks.

"This is really about the gun lobby pushing bills into places like Florida and Texas and other states, pushing guns into places, as many public places as they possibly can. It's not about safety," said Andy Pelosi of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.

Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube sponsored a state bill last December that would allow people with licenses to carry guns on Florida's college campuses. A state Senate committee approved the proposal last month.

"I don't think people's rights to defend themselves should stop at the line of a college campus," Steube told NBC News.