We learned pretty early on this session that a so-called open carry bill, one that lets concealed handgun license holders openly display their pistols, wouldn't be enough to sate die-hard pockets of the state's gun rights crowd.
The Lege opened earlier this year with a proverbial bang as activists guided by Open Carry Tarrant County leader Kory Watkins confronted Democratic state Rep. Poncho Nevarez in his office over their legislative darling, a "constitutional carry" bill that would allow Texans to openly carry guns without even obtaining a license. Nevarez told them he didn't support the measure. They called Nevarez a "tyrant to the Constitution of the United States" and wouldn't leave his office. Security kicked them out. Lawmakers quickly passed a new panic-button policy for their capitol offices.
On Tuesday, the Texas Senate, along strict party lines, gave final approval to Republican Sen. Craig Este's Open Carry bill, thanks in no small part to Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick's axing of the two-thirds rule in the Senate. This makes open carry the first major piece of gun-rights legislation to move this session, and assuming the bill can clear the GOP-dominated House, come January 2016 you'll see a whole lot more hip-holstered pistols around the state of Texas.
And despite some apparent cheering in the Senate gallery Tuesday, constitutional carry supporters on social media reacted with a collective shrug of the shoulders. Many of the reactions to Open Carry Texas' litany of Facebook updates on this week's legislative wrangling went something like this:
"Anyone and let me repeat that ANYONE that says they support licensed OC over unlicensed/Constitutional OC is a sell out to our rights."
"This doesn't help support our 2nd amendment right constitutional carry restores what was taken away I should not have to pay to exercise my rights... "
"We the People should not have to ask permission to exercise our civil rights!"
Watkins, quite predictably, was none too pleased to see open carry pass over constitutional carry. From his Facebook page:
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"Reports are coming in saying open carry of a handgun is passed here in Texas.
I am not even a little happy or satisfied with this. Read the bill, you have to ask for permission, pay a tax and get your fingers printed like a criminal. Then when you exercise your privilege from government you will give up other rights to do so. Police are going to be asking people "Show me your papers" (CHL)
Our founders were shooting over taxes and regulation on stuff like this. WAKE UP!
"It's a step in the right direction." No it's not. that's what you've been suckered to believe, because baby steps is what the legislatures, lobbyist and other tyrants want. Control. And they are still in control. They have proven that.
I will keep waking around with my AK47, thanks. #Texas"
Despite some open-carry activists' ambivalent reception, the bill faced tense debate in the Senate on Monday and Tuesday. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Estes, even went so far as to say that people who are nervous around guns were simply suffering from what he called "holdophobia." Here was Estes' explanation, according to the Chron:
"Seeing a gun in a holster on a person's belt doesn't cause me any concern," Estes said. "If it does to some people, I think that might be classified as an irrational fear. I'm not an expert in phobias."
Houston Democratic Sen. John Whitmire hammered away at the bill on Monday and Tuesday; Whitmire even unsuccessfully attempted to amend the law to ban open carry in the State Capitol complex. "I think you're making a very serious mistake," he told the chamber on Tuesday.