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Home | Tag Archives: texas open carry

Tag Archives: texas open carry

House Panel hears Bills for Open Carry Without Permit

Two measures that would make it easier for Texans to access guns were up for consideration by the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 375 by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, would allow Texans to openly carry a handgun with or without a license, making it optional for people in the state to obtain a permit or take a class. Stickland filed the same bill in 2015, but it was never heard in committee.

“I don’t think the government has the right to say, ‘You have a Second Amendment right, but only if you take this class and pay this fee,’” Stickland said as he laid out his bill. “If someone can legally possess a firearm, they should be able to carry that firearm.”

More than 300 people signed up to testify on the bill, including several law enforcement officers who took issue with a provision that would prevent them from stopping a person carrying a handgun.

“When someone calls and says, ‘Hey, there’s a mysterious person with a weapon,’ [HB 375] as written would not let us address that,” said Houston Police Lt. Jessica Anderson.

Testifying on behalf of her department, Anderson said law enforcement had a responsibility to oppose the legislation because the bill would make it harder to do an already challenging job.

“Our biggest message is that the current law is working — let’s not mess with it just yet,” Anderson said, referring to Texas recently becoming the 45th state to allow Texans to openly carry handguns in a hip or shoulder holster, provided they have a permit.

The committee’s vice chairman, state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, agreed with Anderson and said without a license to carry, law enforcement would not easily be able to separate criminals with guns from licensed gun owners in public.

Committee member Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, a joint author of HB 375 and a veteran, said he had seen freedom lost “at the point of a gun” during his time in Afghanistan.

“Many times, the gun is the difference between freedom and not,” he said. “The Second Amendment was written to protect us against a tyrannical government.”

At the beginning of the hearing, proponents brought in boxes they said contained more than 70,000 signatures in support of the bill. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, chairman of the committee, commended the groups and said the boxes “made a good point.”

Some testimony touched on religious freedom. Radio host Don Green warned legislators not to “stand between me and Jesus Christ when he commands me to defend myself. Grant me my God-given rights to defend my family and my friends in any manner I can afford to do so.”

Andrea Brauer with Texas Gun Sense said it was impossible for anyone to know where God stands on HB 375. Brauer said people bringing religion into the open carry debate are “not arguing that [HB 375] is good policy — they’re just saying, ‘It’s my right and I want it now.’”

The second bill, House Bill 1911 by state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, would allow people without a license to openly carry where current license holders carry, with the exception of college campuses in the state.

In laying out his bill Tuesday, White pointed out that Texans are currently allowed to openly carry long arm rifles or keep a gun in the glovebox of their car under state law. He said HB 1911 would simplify state statute by creating a “single class of law-abiding Texans.”

The option to retain an open carry license would remain under HB 1911, White said.

According to estimates from the Legislative Budget Board, HB 375 and HB 1911 would cost the state more than $37 million each if passed into law. And while neither bill would eliminate the license-to-carry program, the board predicted applications for a license and renewal to carry would decline by 90 percent in fiscal year 2018.

HB 375 and HB 1911 don’t have companion legislation in the Senate, but state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said in a statement March 27 he was “eagerly awaiting” the chance to sponsor “constitutional carry” legislation in the upper chamber, adding there was “no bigger or better way to advance liberty this session.”

The House committee approved additional gun-related measures Tuesday morning, including one that would allow emergency first responders to carry a handgun while on the job, and another — whose companion legislation was voted out of the Senate Monday — that would lower license to carry fees.

Both bills were left pending in committee Tuesday evening.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • On Monday, the upper chamber gave final passage to Senate Bill 16, which would reduce the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the annual renewal fee from $70 to $40.
  • House Bill 375 would give all Texans the right to openly carry a firearm — with or without a permit. If passed, Texas would be the 11th state to allow “constitutional carry.”

Author: CASSANDRA POLLOCK – The Texas Tribune

UT System wants Campus Carry drafts by February

The University of Texas System expects its 14 schools to submit rules for concealed handguns on their campuses by mid-February to comply with the state’s new campus-carry law, officials said in a press release Tuesday.

The UT System Board of Regents will review the proposals, and will have the opportunity to change them, before official guidelines detailing where guns will be allowed and where they will not are finalized sometime this spring, the system said.

On Tuesday, a system task force issued a report on the law to university presidents and Chancellor Bill McRaven. It suggested five areas where guns should be banned — child care centers, stadiums, laboratories with dangerous chemicals, laboratories with animals and hospitals or clinics. Most individual schools were already expected to declare those areas gun-free.

The report did not make recommendations on more controversial areas, such as dormitories and classrooms. UT-Austin has suggested banning guns in dorms, though some state leaders say that would violate the new law. Many professors have been urging their university presidents to ban guns in classrooms. Lawmakers have said that would be illegal, too, and draft rules being considered at most of the biggest schools in the state don’t include classrooms in the gun-free zones.

The new campus carry law goes into effect Aug. 1. It allows people with concealed handgun licenses to carry their weapons inside university buildings, except in the limited gun-free zones designated by those schools. Those zones can’t have the practical effect of banning guns campus-wide, however.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

As Open Carry takes effect, Officials predict lawsuits

As the New Year arrived, so did a new option for gun-toting Texans.

The state’s roughly 826,000 handgun license holders, who previously had to keep their firearms concealed, can now carry them openly in a hip or shoulder holster.

Across Texas, law enforcement officials, city leaders and business owners are bracing for lawsuits.

That’s because state officials have so far largely left interpretation of the new law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June, up to local authorities. Prosecutors and police chiefs across the state’s 254 counties will now each determine their own answer to what was one of the most hotly debated questions of the 2015 legislative session: whether police officers can ask those visibly carrying guns to present their permits.

“There is a difference of opinion about whether or not just the mere fact that someone is walking down Main Street carrying a pistol in a holster is sufficient probable cause for a police officer to insist on seeing their handgun permit,” said Kevin Laurence, the executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. “We are going to wind up having to get court cases out of this defining exactly what authority police officers have.”

Heralding the new open carry law as a much-needed update to the state’s gun regulations, Second Amendment rights activists say it lifts a burden unfairly placed on law-abiding citizens.

“I believe the state is prepared for a smooth, simple transition from concealed to open carry, though I expect most people will continue to carry concealed,” state Sen. Craig Estes, the Wichita Falls Republican who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. “I truly believe the new law will benefit all law-abiding Texans.”

But the legislation’s critics have warned it could have negative consequences for tourism, retail and public safety in the state.

And when it comes to enforcement, confusion reigns.

Laurence said his organization, which represents more than 22,000 Texas law enforcement officers at the state, county and local level, has advised police officers to seek guidance from their departments on how they should approach open carry — and whether they need some evidence or suspicion of criminal activity to ask to see someone’s gun permit.

“The biggest emotion going on out there is confusion,” he said.

While the law protects existing “gun-free zones” — school campuses, courthouses and certain public property, for example — there’s still some uncertainty about where such zones begin and end.

In September, state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who opposes open carry, asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton whether the law merely gave schools the authority to prohibit guns in buildings and classrooms, or whether that authority extended to all district property, including parking lots, sidewalks and driveways.

Attorneys for Hays and Tom Green counties both asked Paxton to clarify their authority to limit handguns in multipurpose government buildings that also house courts. Their question boils down to whether officials may only ban guns in rooms where court proceedings take place — or if they can bar them from an entire building if the building houses a courtroom, said Hays County Criminal Attorney Wes Mau.

Paxton offered some clarification on the new law in three advisory opinions issued on Dec. 21. He ruled that school districts could prohibit weapons on all district property, including sidewalks and driveways, but that local officials could only ban guns from courtrooms, not entire courthouse facilities.

Complicating matters for government entities is a second law legislators passed in 2015, one that imposes a fine on local officials who improperly ban handguns in public places.

But it’s not just government entities grappling with open carry. Businesses in Texas are choosing between allowing open carry of handguns — which can make patrons uneasy — or facing an angry backlash from gun rights activists if they don’t.

Shortly after the law passed, Whataburger announced it would not allow open carry in its restaurants. Targeted outrage and calls for a boycott of the San Antonio-based fast food chain led CEO Preston Atkinson to make a public statement on the policy.

He said that while the company supports the Second Amendment, it made the “business decision” not to allow open carry in its restaurants “a long time ago.”

“We’re the gathering spot for Little League teams, church groups and high school kids after football games,” Atkinson wrote. “We’ve had many customers and employees tell us they’re uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback.”

Under the open carry law, if a business wants to prohibit all handguns on its property, it must post two signs in English and Spanish, one banning concealed handguns and another banning open carry.

The new requirements — and the legal threat companies face for not complying — are especially burdensome for small businesses that lack corporate resources like an in-house lawyer, said state Rep. Diego Bernal, a Democrat.

Since October, Bernal has been distributing signs that meet state requirements to small businesses in his San Antonio district that wish to ban firearms.

“The state has zero plan to let people know what to expect — folks are kind of in the dark,” said Bernal. “There are going to be a patchwork of interpretations and probably a patchwork of lawsuits. It was so poorly done.”

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

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