RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's John Burnett has our story from Austin, Texas.
JOHN BURNETT: In most states that have a concealed carry law, premises of higher education are off limits. A bill in Texas would change that.
JEFF WENTWORTH: Right now, so-called gun-free zones, I think, ought to be renamed victims zones. I just don't want to see a repeat, in Texas, of what happened at Virginia Tech.
BURNETT: Wheeler Police tell us a Colton Tooley, a math major and sophomore at UT is the gunman who fired shots outside before shooting himself.
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BURNETT: According to Wentworth and other supporters of the law, a citizen with a handgun can possibly take out a campus shooter before police arrive.
WENTWORTH: Because when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
BURNETT: It's legal for license holders to carry on the campus grounds. Powers says his position has not changed.
BILL POWERS: Friday night comes on our campus once a week. Mixing youth, handguns and partying, is in my view, a mix for serious concerns about safety on campus.
COREY ZIPPERER: We get the mature thing a lot, that college students are mature enough. And the alcohol thing, that we're all just boozed up all the time.
BURNETT: As a license holder himself, Zipperer discreetly straps on a .38 Special. In Texas he points out, to get a concealed handgun license you must be 21 years old, have a clean record and no psychiatric disorders, and take a 10-hour instruction course that includes time at a firing range.
ZIPPERER: So if people think that 21 year olds are too immature to get a license, it sounds like they have a problem with the whole concept.
BURNETT: When John Woods came to Austin for graduate school from Virginia Tech, he thought he'd left behind the rampage that killed two of his friends. When the Texas legislature took up guns on campuses, Woods, a 26-year-old biology graduate student, stepped forward to become a leading voice opposing the bill.
JOHN WOODS: People think of colleges as just being classrooms, but there's a lot more going on here. We have hospitals on campus, in some cases there are preschools, again, you have sensitive labs where there are hazardous materials. And this is also something where the legislature is taking away the higher education institution's abilities to make any policy on the issue.
BURNETT: At a nearby table inside the student union, students Logan Healey and Bethany Ellerbrook totally agreed.
LOGAN HEALEY: So, our suggestion to stop people from bringing guns to campus is to allow other students to bring guns to campus so we can have gunfights.
BETHANY ELLERBROOK: That's an awful idea. I hate it.
BURNETT: The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that 22 states have rejected similar legislation. One that did not is Utah, where the University of Utah in Salt Lake City has had a concealed-weapon carry law for five years.
CHASE JARDINE: I'd say the vast majority of our student body doesn't even know about that law, or if someone does have a handgun in class, I bet you 95 percent of the people would never know about it.
BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News, Austin
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