texas campus carry

Texas Campus Carry: An Overview of the History and Current Statutes

Despite particularly heavy debate surrounding the issue, the permitting of handgun license holders to carry handguns on college campuses, or Texas campus carry, introduced in Senate Bill 11, remains one of the least understood aspects of the new laws regarding handgun licensing and carrying a handgun.

The Law Prior to Texas Campus Carry

Until August 1, 2016, when the Texas Campus Carry laws take effect, Texas Penal Code § 46.03 prohibits the possession and carrying of all firearms (not just handguns), regardless of whether a person is licensed to carry, on:

  • The physical premises of a school or educational institution (both public and private);
  • Any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted; and
  • Passenger transportation vehicles of a school or educational institution.

The only exception to this rule is to secure permission to carry pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution.  This prohibition against firearms applies to all levels of education, including college campuses, and is punishable as a third degree felony.

Under § 46.03, the “premises” of a school or educational institution means a building or portion of a building, and specifically does not include any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area.  This means that the prohibition against firearms in schools and educational institutions only applies to the buildings of the institution.  Thus, a license holder may legally carry a concealed handgun on property belonging to a school or educational institution (including a college campus) so long as he or she does not carry the handgun into the actual buildings.

However, § 46.03 also prohibits the possession and carrying of firearms on any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted.  This means that a person, licensed or not, could be prohibited from possessing or carrying a firearm in areas other than physical buildings of a school (such as parking lots, streets, sidewalks, and other areas specifically excluded from the definition of “premises”) if a school-sponsored activity is taking place at the time.  Texas Attorney General Opinion KP-0050, issued December 21, 2015, reinforces this concept in the Texas Campus Carry legislation, stating “…such places are ones from which weapons are prohibited by law when an activity sponsored by a school is being conducted.  Conversely, Section 46.03 does not prohibit weapons on such places when a school-sponsored activity is not being conducted.”

Finally, § 46.03 also prohibits the possession and carrying of firearms on passenger transportation vehicles of a school or educational institution.  Obviously, this includes school buses and other school-provided transportation, but does not include public transportation.

Additionally, until August 1, 2016, Texas Penal Code § 46.035 further prohibits license holders from carrying a handgun on the premises (not including driveways, streets, sidewalks, parking lots, etc.) where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place.  An offense under this section is punishable as a class A misdemeanor.

The New Texas Campus Carry Laws – Effective August 1, 2016

The new Texas Campus Carry laws, which will take effect August 1, 2016, will be located predominantly in the new Government Code § 411.2031, and revisions to § 46.035 of the Penal Code.

Authorization for License Holders to Carry Concealed Handguns on Campus and Authorization for Institutions of Higher Education to Establish Rules Regarding the Carrying of Handguns on Campus

Government Code § 411.2031 will specifically authorize a license holder to carry a concealed handgun on the campus of an institution of higher education (public or private), and will specifically define “campus” to include all land and buildings owned or leased by the institution.  Section 411.2031 further provides that, except as allowed under that section, an institution of higher education may not adopt any rules, regulations, or other provisions prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns on campus.  This means that any restrictions an institution of higher education adopts prohibiting license holders from carrying handgun on campus must comply with the limits of those restrictions described in Government Code § 411.2031.

Section 411.2031 will permit institutions of higher education (public and private) to establish rules, regulations, or other provisions concerning the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities that are owned or leased and operated by the institution and located on the institution’s campus.  However, this section also expressly prohibits an institution from adopting any provisions that “generally prohibit of have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus on the institution.”  Texas Attorney General Opinion KP-0051, issued December 21, 2015, addresses this seeming contradiction, stating that § 411.2031 allows an institution to establish “reasonable requirements related to the location and manner in which handguns are stored within its residential facilities on campus.”  This opinion further speculates that if an institution prohibited handguns in residential facilities, it would effectively prohibit license holders living in those facilities from carrying concealed handguns on campus, in violation of § 411.2031.

In addition to rules concerning the storage of handguns in residential facilities, § 411.2031 directs the president or other chief executive officer of an institution of higher education (excluding private and independent institutions) to establish rules regarding the carrying of concealed handguns by license holders on campus.  Again, these rules may not generally prohibit license holders from carrying concealed handguns on campus.  All such rules must be widely distributed to the institution’s students, staff, and faculty, including by prominently publishing these rules on the institution’s website, and the institution must give effective notice under Texas Penal Code § 30.06 as to the portions of any premises where a license holder may not carry.

No later than 90 days after the date an institution establishes any such rules and regulations regarding the carrying of concealed handguns, its board of regents or other or other governing body shall review the provisions.  By a vote of two-thirds or more, the board of regents or other governing body may wholly or partly amend these provisions.  Furthermore, on September 1 or each even-numbered year, each institution of higher education shall submit a report to the legislature and the applicable standing committee that describes its rules regarding the carrying of concealed handguns on campus, and explains the reasons the institution has established those rules.

Finally, despite the restrictions placed on public institutions of higher education regarding the rules they can establish to limit concealed handguns on campus, § 411.2031 permits private and independent institutions to establish rules prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns (whether concealed or openly carried) on the institution’s campus, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, and passenger transportation vehicles owned by the institution.  Thus, a private or independent institutions of higher education may completely ban license holders from carrying handguns on campus without violating § 411.2031.

Penalties for License Holders Carrying Handguns in Violation of Rules Established by Institutions of Higher Education

While Government Code § 411.2031 permits license holders to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, Penal Code § 46.035 provides criminal penalties for license holders who carry handguns openly on college campuses or violates the rules an institution has established regarding the carrying of handguns on campus.  As of January 1, 2016, a license holder who carries a wholly or partly visible handgun, regardless of whether the handgun is holstered, on the premises of an institution of higher education (public or private), or on any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, or parking area of the institution commits a class A misdemeanor.  This provision preserves the right of license holders to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, excluding the buildings, until § 411.2031 takes effect August 1, 2016.

Effective August 1, 2016, § 46.035(a-2) will prohibit license holders from carrying a handgun (openly or concealed) on the campus of a private or independent institution of higher education, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, and on passenger transportation vehicles of the institution if the institution has established rules prohibiting license holder from carrying on campus and provided effective notice pursuant to § 30.06.  Violations of this section will be punishable as a class A misdemeanor.

Also effective August 1, 2016, § 46.035(a-3) will further prohibit license holders from carrying a concealed handgun on portions of a premises of a public institution of higher education on which the institution has established rules prohibiting the carrying of handguns, so long as effective notice is provided pursuant to § 30.06.  Violations of this section will also be punishable as a class A misdemeanor.

Despite addition of § 411.2031 and the substantial changes to § 46.035, § 46.03 will remain predominantly the same.  The only significant change to this section is that as of August 1, 2016, a license holder who carries a concealed handgun on the premises of an institution of higher education (public or private), on any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of the institution will no longer be prosecuted under § 46.03, and would instead be prosecuted under § 46.035.  However, this exception to the general prohibition against firearms on school property will only apply to college campuses, and does not exempt a license holder from prosecution for possessing or carrying a firearm on other school grounds where weapons are prohibited under § 46.03.

 

Texas Campus Carry FAQ:

Does the new Texas Campus Carry legislation allow me to carry my handgun if a K-12 school-sponsored activity is being hosted on the campus of a institution of higher education (4-year university or junior college)?

Short answer:  If a K-12 school-sponsored activity is being conducted on the premises or an area of a college campus, you cannot carry on the specific premises or area on the college campus where the K-12 school-sponsored activity is taking place.

Long answer: Breaking this down, the default rule according to Texas Penal Code Sec. 46.03 is that handguns (and other weapons) are expressly prohibited on the physical premises of a “school or educational institution.”  This includes the premises (buildings) and/or any grounds on which an activity sponsored by the school is being conducted.  The LTC holder exception, or Texas Campus Carry exception, is found in Sec. 46.03(a)(1)(B), which states that LTC holders can carry a concealed handgun on the premises of  “an institution of higher education or independent institution of higher education,” (colleges) including the grounds where any activity sponsored by the college is being conducted.

We must note that the LTC holder exception applies to the premises and activities of college campuses only.  Specifically, we must look to the Education Code for a definition of “institutions of higher education or independent institutions of higher education.”  Sec.  61.003 of the Education Code specifically defines  “institutions of higher education” as everything but K-12 schools.  Taking this into consideration, since the LTC holder exception applies to “institutions of higher education” and activities sponsored by “institutions of higher education” only, the exception does not apply to activities sponsored by K-12 schools taking place on a college campus.

However, this does not prohibit an LTC holder from carrying a concealed handgun on other parts of the college campus where the K-12 school activity is not taking place.  For example, if the local high school is holding a district-wide basketball tournament in the college gym, LTC holders would be prohibited from carrying in the college gym only.  LTC holders could still store their handguns in their vehicles or carry on other parts of the campus.

 

Statutes Related to this Texas Campus Carry question:

Texas Penal Code Sec. 46.03(a) – “A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon listed in Sec. 46.05(a):

(1) on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution, whether the school or educational institution is public or private unless:

(A) pursuant to written regulations on written authorization of the institution; or

(B) the person possesses or goes with a concealed handgun that the person is licensed to carry under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and no other weapon to which this section applies, on the premises of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education, on any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of the institution.

Sec. 46.03(c) – In this section:

(1) “Institution of higher education” and “private or independent institution of higher education” have the same meanings assigned by Section 61.003, Education Code.

 

Sec. 61.003(8), Education Code: “Institution of higher education” means any public technical institute, public junior college, public senior college or university, medical or dental unit, public state college, or other agency of higher education as defined in this section.

Sec. 61.003(15), Education Code: “Private or independent institution of higher education” includes only a private or independent college (followed by accreditation requirements and specific provisions of the Texas Constitution, Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act, and Internal Revenue Code)

 

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