The campus carry bill may seem like a victory for the gun lobby. But on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, this mother, who fought against it, explains why she’s celebrating.
If you know anything about Texas, you know it loves its football and its guns.
And if you know anything about football—or sports in general—you understand that scoreboards rarely tell the story of what really went down on the field.
Y’all, that’s a pretty good analogy for how to look at the Campus Carry bill that’s waiting hot and toasty for the Texas governor’s signature as I write this. The legislature’s scoreboard may indicate a victory for the guns-everywhere team, but if you take a look at the final product, you’ll get why I am pumped to keep on fighting for common-sense reform to our nation’s slew of bizarro and destructive gun laws.
Full disclosure, because I need to get this out of the way, folks: I’m a gun owner, and I like to shoot. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in gun control. In fact, I’m a member of the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Now, in its original form at the start of the legislative session back in January, the Campus Carry bill was just about as stupid as stupid gets. It would have forced public universities and colleges to allow the concealed carry of handguns anywhere on campus a CHL (concealed handgun license) permit holder could fit: in a classroom where the prof has just handed back a paper with a D grade; in a chem lab next to a flaming Bunsen burner; or at a frat party where we all know things like drunken vandalism and sexual assault never, ever happen.
In normal circumstances, you’d think the very nature of the proposal would kill it (so to speak) on arrival. But this being Texas, and this being America, we also had the NRA, the Texas State Rifle Association, and the ever-lovable Open-Carry Texas gunning for that bill to win.
Yep, we were underdogs.
But then a funny thing happened in the Lone Star state: Rather than taking this dangerous bill lying down, the Common Sense Team rallied to fight back against the gun lobby, and we fought hard. I’m talking hundreds of phone calls and emails to legislators offices, y’all. At the Senate and House hearings on Campus Carry, dozens upon dozens of people showed up to testify against the bill: big-name university presidents, police chiefs in shiny badges, nurses, profs, students (Heya, Longhorns!), mass-shooting survivors, and gun-owning soccer mommies like me. We looked them legislators in the eye and said, Not today, amigos. There’s a time and place for guns. Beer pong and finals week ain’t one of them.
Not that it didn’t get crazy, and not that the game didn’t have its strenuous moments. Last week, when the House voted largely along party lines just short of midnight to push Campus Carry through, we were in a dark place indeed. But that’s when dark place turned into Dark Horse, and we kicked into high gear with a comeback: More phone calls. More social-media blitzing. More meetings, and last-minute appeals to people’s plain old sense of reason with the simple truth that putting more guns in more places doesn’t make us any safer.
And what we came out with was better than we expected: the Texas legislature passed a watered-down Campus Carry bill, which the Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign into law and would take effect on university campuses in August 2016 (and community colleges the following August) that allows private universities and colleges to opt out and public ones to designate parts of their campuses as gun-free zones. Of course, it’s far from a perfect result. But the biggest gain here might just be that feeling you get when you know your opponent is limping off the field after eking out that Pyrrhic victory against you. This week, Texan gun-lobby forums aren’t exactly doing the ecstatic end-zone dance with their watered-down win. They didn’t roll us like they would have only a few years ago, and they know it. One group shot out an angry statement saying that their side “got outplayed on every front” and that they “played checkers while our opponents played Global Thermonuclear War.”
That’s us, y’all: Moms with warheads.
In essence, I know my fellow Texas moms and I have a lot to be excited about. We get a choice on spending tuition dollars on safer campuses. Our kids get a better chance at a future with less gun violence. And we leave the field knowing we played excellent defense against a foe that is no longer the sure betting favorite.
And just this Monday, our very own Texas House of Representatives accepted a resolution to mark June 2 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day, as part of the Wear Orange campaign, which amplifies existing efforts to reduce gun violence in the U.S. and helps honor the 88 Americans whose lives are cut short by gun violence every day. Wear Orange and National Gun Violence Awareness Day was inspired by a group of Chicago teens who asked their classmates to commemorate the life of their slain friend, Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager who was fatally gunned down while hanging out with friends in a South Side park just days after performing at the inaugural events for President Obama. She would have turned 18 today. Orange is a color that hunters wear to keep themselves, and others, safe from harm.
Here in the Lone Star State, we got ourselves a game, y’all.
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