Here's the good news and bad news on proposed gun bills at the Capitol: The good news is that metal detectors at the front door of government buildings may go away. The bad news is that it would be because some lawmakers think people have a right to carry guns and weapons into those government buildings.
Yesterday was the day for the campus carry and open carry gun bills at the Capitol. And if you didn't think it was a big deal, consider this: The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday and beat it the heck out of Dodge. And Moms Demand Action, an opponent of both campus carry and open carry, had an unarmed police escort to yesterday's hearing, for fear of a run-in with the open carry lobby.
Business associations were on hand to support Senate Bill 17, the open carry bill. That doesn't exactly mean they were cheering open carry. What they like is the language in the bill that still allows them to prohibit guns on their property.
"We have read all the bills on gun legislation," Cathy DeWitt, vice president of governmental affairs at the Texas Association of Business, told the Senate State Affairs Committee. "This is the bill that keeps business and the rights of private property owners in mind."
Richie Jackson, who has been the head of the Texas Restaurant Association for three decades, said the debate boils down to property rights versus Second Amendment rights. In the case of the initial concealed handgun law, a business' right to prohibit guns is protected. That language is echoed in the open carry bill.
Restaurants rarely have had issues with concealed handguns. Open carry, however, might send some patrons running for the door. But it's likely that property rights will prevail in the red meat crowd at the Capitol.
Current speculation is that city and county buildings are going to be in the crosshairs of gun proponents. Businesses are private property. Government buildings are the property of the people, or so goes the logic.
Campus carry and open carry are not even the most controversial gun bills this session. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has filed a "constitutional carry" bill, which would eliminate the criminalization of carrying a gun anywhere anytime, with or without a permit (Stickland, miffed at San Antonio City Hall's inconsistent policies about pocketknives, also has filed a bill that would prohibit cities from regulating stun guns, knives and pepper sprays.)
Stickland's "constitutional carry" measure, House Bill 195, has been referred to the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, which is co-chaired by state Rep. Poncho Navarez, a Democrat and critic of the bill whose office was stormed by open-carry activists calling him a "tyrant to the constitution" the first day of the session. Navarez had to kick the open-carry crowed out of his office, and the confrontation so spooked lawmakers that they immediately passed a new "panic button" policy for their state-house offices.
We'd bet the odds that bill makes it out of committee are slim to none.
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