I have been following open carry legislation very closely over Texas' 84th Legislative Session. There seems to be some political tug of war and it is not what you may think... Many may think that the republicans in Texas would all be in favor of liberty and the democrats would provide opposition to any expanded gun rights, but you would be wrong!
Many republicans that ran their last election campaigns on expanding gun rights, err privileges, I would like to call out some of the activities and some of the most divisive representatives and senators.
The Senate passed SB17 in March 2015 and referred it to the House where it sat idle. SB 17 would allow those who have qualified for a CHL to also carry a handgun openly, in a belt or shoulder holster. Current Texas law allow the open carry of long guns like shotguns and rifles.
House Bill 910 sponsored by state Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) would allow current CHL holders to openly carry in a belt or shoulder holster. This bill was was passed by the House on April 20, 2015 and was referred to the Senate where it sat idle until May 18, 2015. It was finally picked up by the committee for public testimony. Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) presided over the testimony and while there were a dozen or so Mom's Demand Action supporters that recited a form letter, there were only a handful of open carry supporters two in particular CJ Grisham of Open Carry Texas and Terry Holcomb Sr of Texas Carry who both stated that they would be the only people testifying in favor of HB910 from their respective groups as not to delay the proceedings any further. Senator Estes made a motion to remove what was known as the Dutton amendment which would have prevented law enforcement officers from asking a person who is openly carrying a pistol for a license without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. Then HB910 finally placed on the calendar May 21, 2015, it went on to have its 2nd reading May 22 where some some shenanigans came up. The bill was expected to easily pass and then a heated debate came up. Amendments were added, withdrawn, postponed. The most controversial amendment that was added back to HB910 by Senator Huffines to put a ban on police from stopping people solely because they are visibly carrying a handgun.
The Dutton/Huffines amendment stirred up the political elite and law enforcement agencies. The Dutton/Huffines’ amendment simply enforces or codifies our federal constitutionally protected 4th amendment right. The bill was postponed until later in the evening.
"This is a mistake, and I think it's a mistake the state of Texas will come to regret," said Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston. Huffman, a former prosecutor and judge, added: “This is just a backdoor to constitutional carry, because, really, any person could just carry a gun without a license because they know the police can’t inquire of them if they have a license.”
Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, a former prosecutor, said that with the amendment, HB910 would be the effective equivalent of so-called "constitutional carry"
The amendment took on bi-partisan support with nine democrats voting for the bill with the amendment as a way to reduce perceived racial profiling.
“If somebody is going to be profiled for walking around the streets of Houston or Austin with a gun, someone who looks like me is more likely to get stopped,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who is black.
HB910 finally passed the Senate vote and should move straight to the Governor, but wait, there’s more. Oh, snap there is a clerical error in the wording of the amendment that will require HB910 to go back to the House. I guess you want to read the clerical error?
This post is not to discount the desire to pass unlicensed open carry but a recognition that there has been a lot of hard work by countless people and groups to expand gun rights in Texas. Texas is currently one of only 6 states that do not permit some form of open carry of modern handguns. Many of the gun rights groups maintain that the compromise is a win while other contend it is simply a weak legislature that did not have the appetite to go on record with their vote for unlicensed open carry. I fall in the latter camp. We can continue to fight for an expansion of our gun rights by supporting groups like Lone Star Gun Rights and Open Carry Texas. These groups will be active post 84th legislative session by outing the RINOs like Senator Huffman, Representative Phillips. At the same time these groups will applaud liberty loving legislators like Representative Stickland and Huffines.