The volley of gun-related bill filings at the State Capitol has people for and against expanded gun laws keeping a close eye on the legislative session, which started Tuesday.
So far, Texas lawmakers have already filed at least 40 gun-related bills and most of those proposals focus on safety.
Dozens of volunteers with Texas Gun Sense navigated the halls of the Capitol this week, stopping in offices to lobby state lawmakers.
“I call them gun-grabbing liberals,” said State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who wrote House Bill 375.
If passed, it would open the door for Constitutional Carry in the state.
Texas gun owners would be able to openly carry their weapons without a permit. Licensing and training classes would also be optional under the law.
“We believe Texans should not be forced to pay a fee or take a call to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Stickland said.
Ten states in the U.S. already have Constitutional Carry laws and Stickland is eager to make Texas number eleven.
“I absolutely think it will make Texas safer,” said Stickland.
The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) gave Rep. Stickland the .50 Caliber Freedom Award in Austin Friday for his “staunch defense of the Second Amendment.”
State Rep. Matt Rinaldi,R-Irving, who co-authored the Constitutional Carry bill received the same honor alongside Stickland.
President of NAGR, Dudley Brown said, “Police officers can’t be everywhere, they are really forensic historians. They are there to take a report, find out what happened.”
A freshman in the Texas House, State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, announced plans to file a bill that would prohibit the carry of any fire arm when intoxicated.
If passed, the law would set the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level at .08, the same limit as the state's drinking and driving law.
“You can’t drive a car when you’re drunk, you shouldn’t be able to carry a firearm if you’re drunk,” Hinojosa said.
The Austin Democrat said she is particularly concerned about Constitutional Carry and called for “all hands on deck” to stop the bill.
State Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, discussed the fear and confusion people might feel if they see someone walk into a movie theater or a mall with a firearm.
“Take the most frightening vision you can come up with of someone carrying a gun,” Sen. Menéndez said, “if you have Constitutional Carry nobody can say anything.”
Menéndez has filed a few “gun violence prevention bills” in the Texas Senate.
A Democrat out of San Antonio, Menéndez said, “Even in the days of the wild, wild west, the saloons had rules about checking your guns.”
Stickland said laws that add restrictions or aim to make it more difficult to buy a firearm are ineffective because “criminals by nature do not obey laws.”
Stickland said, “So all we’re doing is hurting the good guys who we should want to be armed.”
At Texas Gun Sense, top priorities include increasing state background checks and requiring better education on safe storage.
Mary Lynn Rice-Lively, Texas Gun Sense’s board president said the non-profit wants to focus on passing “common sense gun laws” but there is one bill the group “unequivocally opposes,” and that’s Constitutional Carry.
“A permitless carry bill makes no sense,” Rice-Lively said, “another possibly lethal mechanism.”
Stickland said he plans to force a recorded vote on the House floor so state lawmakers have to take a public stand on Constitutional Carry.
The leader of the National Gun Rights Association, Brown said, “Then citizens can hold them accountable for that vote, we think that’s only fair and Republican leadership should allow that.”
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