Color the rest of the country shocked: Texas is one of the few states in the nation (six, to be exact) that hasn’t yet approved the open carry of handguns in some form. That all could change this legislative session, though, if Republicans in the legislature have their way.
Yesterday, members of the Texas House of Representatives voted 96-35 to approve House Bill 910 by Republican Larry Phillips. HB 910 would allow anyone holding a concealed carry license to also also openly carry a weapon in a hip or shoulder holster. (In Texas, it’s already legal to openly carry a long gun.) According to the Houston Chronicle, lawmakers worked through almost 20 amendments before finally moving the measure on to the Senate, including one that would have allowed for campus carry. (That issue, unfortunately, is another blog post entirely.)
The Senate has already passed its own version of the bill, which means that the two chambers will have to reconcile their differences before the bill is sent to Governor Greg Abbott for his signature.
Surprisingly enough, even in Texas the pro-Second Amendment crowd faces substantial skepticism from both civilians, and various police organizations:
Despite the Lone Star State’s cowboy image, open carry and campus carry remain controversial. A February poll by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune found that, while most Texas voters supported carrying handguns in public, 45% believed it should be through concealed, licensed weapons, with only 32% supporting some form of open carry. Respondents were split on campus carry, with 47% in support and 45% opposed.
The Texas Police Chiefs Association polled its members this year and found that 75% were opposed to open carry. Members weren’t surveyed about campus carry, but “most police chiefs get nervous about the idea of introducing any form of weapon to school campuses,” said Sean Mannix, chairman of the group’s legislative committee and police chief in Cedar Park, a city that borders Austin.
Efforts by open carry opponents to either water down or amend the bill failed:
Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to water down the bill, introducing amendments to allow cities with more than 1 million residents to opt out of open carry with local ordinances and to simplify so-called “gunbuster” 30.06 signage. Just two amendments were adopted: one clarifying the bill’s language and another to lessen the penalty for accidentally carrying a concealed weapon into a business with a gunbuster sign from a Class A to a Class C misdemeanor.
Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, who received a security detail after receiving death threats for his opposition to unlicensed open carry, also offered the signage simplification and another amendment to close the state’s reciprocity loophole.
“The vitriol, the anger, and the hate that surrounds this issue is outside the walls of this chamber and we’re not contemplating it because we live in this fantasy world where we’re trying to protect Second Amendment rights at all costs,” he said.
Having lived and worked in Texas, I can tell you with 100% certainty that this is an issue over which emotions run high. Last session, there was less opposition fired at campus carry than there was at open carry. The fact that Republicans managed to work open carry bills through both chambers without substantial amendments is an enormous accomplishment—one that should be recognized no matter where you stand on the issue.
We’ll keep you updated on the bill’s progress.DONATE
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