Friday, October 31st, 2014

Fact-checking claims about concealed handguns

State Rep. Vicki Truitt works with a concealed handgun license instructor in 2008.
State Rep. Vicki Truitt works with a concealed handgun license instructor in 2008.

Legislation allowing licensed concealed handguns to be carried on public college campuses got its first green light last month. The Texas House’s version of the legislation, carried by Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, was approved 5-3 March 17 by the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

Last  week, the Senate started debate on its version of the bill, by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, though he decided not to proceed because not enough senators were ready to commence consideration.

We’ve already gauged a few gun-related claims, made by Wentworth and a Democratic state representative opposing his bill.

During a Feb. 22 MSNBC interview with a disbelieving Chris Matthews, Wentworth insisted that bars and alcohol are prohibited on Texas college campuses. That set the Truth-O-Meter ablaze: We found two Texas universities that have bars on campus and other schools we checked routinely serve alcohol in campus facilities.

Wentworth earned a True from another TV appearance that day. On CNN, the San Antonio Republican said: "We have over 25 million people who live in Texas and less than 2 percent of them have these licenses." Of the 25.1 million people living in Texas, we found 1.8 percent of the population is licensed to carry.

Also appearing on CNN, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, maintained that colleges already have the option of allowing guns on campus — and they aren’t taking it. We rated that Mostly True: State law dating to 1974 allows higher-ed institutions to permit weapons, though concealed handguns are prohibited from sporting and interscholastic events.

Also, state Rep. Van Taylor, R-Collins, has filed campus-carry legislation that would allow concealed handgun licensees to bring their guns to public junior college campuses.

Would campuses become less safe? In a March 16 Texas Monthly blog post, Taylor was quoted as saying: "You’re more likely to get struck by lightning that to get shot by a CHL owner." Simple statement, but not so easy to check. While the National Weather Service has calculated the likelihood of being struck by lightning in a given year, but we lacked sufficient information to gauge the chances of being shot by a CHL holder. The Texas Department of Public Safety only tracks conviction rates for CHL holders, and the available data doesn’t specify whether the crime involved firing a gun. Without that information, Taylor’s claim cannot be proved or disproved.
   
PolitiFact National has also weighed in on a guns-on-campus claim. Appearing on ABC News’ This Week with Christiane Amanpour on Jan. 9, ABC News senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas said: "Mass shootings have become commonplace since the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007," in which a single gunman killed 32 and wounded many more. "There have been dozens of incidents where three or more people have been fatally wounded. Hundreds have died." PolitiFact rated that Half True, because it’s not clear that there’s been a distinct upward trend in killings of three or more people, either since 2007 or over the past three decades.

Hang onto your holster because more gun-related statements stand to be aired. Just today, the Austin American-Statesman delved into a proposal to let lawmakers and others tote concealed weapons anywhere.