CLEVELAND - Lawmakers in Ohio approved a bill on Friday that opens the way for licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, less than two weeks after a man injured 11 in a stabbing attack at Ohio State University.
State senators passed the bill 22-8 after representatives approved it 68-25 late Thursday, sending the bill to the desk of Republican Governor John Kasich for his signature.
If the bill is signed into law, the board of trustees at Ohio's public universities would have the option to allow for concealed-carry on campuses.
The legislation also removed a state ban on carrying a concealed weapon in public areas of airports and child care centers, local media reported. Operators would be able to choose whether to prohibit guns in their buildings.
However, late Thursday, the House of Representatives removed provisions from the bill that would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons into government buildings such as libraries and city halls.
The passage of the bill came less than two weeks after Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, injured 11 people on the Ohio State campus in Columbus. Artan was shot dead by a police officer moments after he plowed his car into a crowd, jumped out and began stabbing people, police said.
Law enforcement groups were split on the bill. The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police opposed it, but a state sheriffs group backed it.
Critics say such laws diminish safety on campuses and public buildings; supporters say they could prevent mass shootings.
Charleta Tavares, a Democratic state senator from Columbus who voted against the bill, said Wednesday that she deferred to law enforcement, who she said were opposed to the measure.
"They are going to deal with the real-life consequences of the passing of this bill," she said.
Republican state Senator Bill Coley of Columbus countered Tavares' claim that the bill was not about keeping Ohioans safe.
"There is no statistical evidence that this is not more safe," he said.
Ten U.S. states currently allow guns on campuses, according to the website of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.
A law in Texas went into effect in August that allows people 21 or older with a concealed-handgun license to carry pistols into classrooms and most buildings at public universities.
The Texas law took effect as the University of Texas at Austin held a memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. a college campus, when Charles Whitman killed 16 people in a shooting rampage.