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What is going on with the gun bills?

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This past week has been confusing to say the least regarding HB1911 and HB375.  On Wednesday, the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee met and as the last item of business, they voted to move pending business out of committee. Included in this pending business was HB1911 by Representative James White.  What was not included was HB375 by Representative Jonathan Stickland.

At the end of the committee hearing Chairman King made the following statement after a committee substitute was offered that makes changes throughout House Bill 1911:

“Primarily the committee substitute reverts back to simply creating an unlicensed option to carry a handgun.  The bill does not expand who can carry as it originally did. Originally it took it down to age 18. The person carrying unlicensed must meet the current LTC requirements to carry unlicensed.  In other words, it links it to the current requirement for carrying an LTC—for having—for obtaining an LTC.  Being at least 21 years of age. Not convicted of a felony. Fully qualified to purchase a gun by federal and state law. Not a member of a criminal gang. Is carrying in a concealed or in a holster and in the other—in most of the other numerated LTC requirements.  Churches and other places of worship are removed from the list of prohibited places.  Uh, they do maintain the right to put up a sign just as any other entity does, uh, criminal trespass for unlicensed carry is put under 30.05 as to avoid hurting 30.06.  It removed the requirement that holsters only be on the belt or shoulder by simply stating that the handgun is carried in a holster and it does not—it does not interfere with or change or conflict with the current statutes in place in campus carry.

If you remember there were concerns raised about 375, well about 1911—there were concerns raised with regard to um, um by the AGs office with regards to the ability to use it for child support collection. There were concerns raised by the colleges that it would dramatically change if not in effect abolish campus carry particularly for private institutions. There were concerns that it in effect would allow a senior in high school at age 18 to carry unlicensed. There were concerns by law enforcement in how they could approach someone—how they didn’t. Anyway, Representative White has done a noble job in trying to accommodate as many of those as he felt like he could and still honor the issue.

I still have grave concerns and a lot of that, I’ll be honest with you, just comes from being a police officer for 15 year and then seeing the fact that were losing—that were having police officers placed in so many positions that frankly they weren’t—haven’t ever been before and so I have some concerns to make sure that our law enforcement are able to do their job, able to investigate things, but out of my deep, deep respect for the author and my deep appreciation for how hard the committee has worked on this and for how many citizens have expressed sincere desire for this to go forward for additional discussion, I have brought it before the committee to vote out today if it has the votes.  I think there is still going to be a lot of discussion as it moves toward the floor and while it’s in the floor, but I want to commend Representative White for the steps that he has taken on it.

Chairman King then asked if there were any other questions.

Representative Hinojosa asks, “Is this the same substitute that we received the day of the hearing or is this a new one?”

Chairman King says, “No. This is the one that was put in your box yesterday.”

Five of the committee members proceeded to make statements about HB1911.

Representative Wray stated, “I support permit less carry of handguns.  Many people interested in the bill feel that HB1911 is too restrictive in the form we are adopting today….I want to be on record that I agree that certain restrictions for obtaining an LTC such as being charges with a nonviolent Class B misdemeanor should not be a basis for denying the right to carry a handgun without a permit….”

Representative Schaefer stated, “The committee substitute as laid before us now does not meet the definition of constitutional carry as I would describe it.  It would be my strong preference that we work with a version of House Bill 375 by Jonathan Stickland or even the committee substitute that we originally saw on 1911—the first committee substitute…”

Holland said, “I could echo both what Representative Schaefer and Wray said…This is clearly an issue that people wanted to see…

Burns stated, “I echo the comments of Wray, Holland and Schaefer. I would support any of the constitutional carry bills that want to come out of this committee, but I understand where we are at with this one, but I believe the important thing to do, as representative Schaefer said, is to ultimately advance the issue—advance our 2nd amendment rights.  I believe this bill does that.  Does it go far enough? No, but it will advance our rights and I’m going to be supporting it.”

Metcalf said, “I would like to echo the remarks of Wray, Schaefer, Holland and now Burns……I agree it doesn’t go as far as I’d like it to go as we’ve all said up here today, but we are advancing the issue and I believe in moving the ball forward….

Since Chairman Kings statement regarding the AG’s office, there have been statements made against the AG and his office in what some believe is the AG’s opposition to House Bill 375.  Attorney General Paxton put out a statement tonight stating the following, “As a legislator, I would vote for HB 375. I would also vote for HB 1911. As Attorney General, I am committed to defend any laws passed by the legislature that further protect the gun rights of Texas citizens.”

What exactly made Chairman King make the statement about the AG’s office?  It is not quite clear, but we do know that it is the duty of the AG’s office to be a resource for committee chairs and legislators.

Many times, committee chairs will invite the AG’s office to testify on a bill.  When someone testifies on a bill, they are giving their neutral opinion as to what might be caused by the passage of the bill in question.  Speaking on a bill in no way shows support or opposition for the legislation.  It seems, due to the statement made by King, that the Ag’s office was consulted regarding HB375/HB1911 and the office gave its unbiased opinion as to what might happen if HB375/HB1911 passed without the child support collection mechanism.  This is in no way to be misconstrued as support or opposition to the legislation.

To be a viable bill, HB375 needs to move out of committee before Tuesday, April 25th.

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