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concealed carry

How ready is Texas law enforcement for open carry?

Hard to say. But we’ll begin to find out soon enough.

Texas law enforcement has also been pretty vocal about their concerns with open carry. They are, after all, the group who’ll have to deal with most of the potential fallout of the new law in the upcoming months. While a majority of police chiefs have expressed a general opposition to the law (75 percent, according to a survey in February) , they were most vocal in May when a provision was added that would prevent police officers from stopping people solely because they were openly carrying a gun. By then, the passing of open carry seemed inevitable, so even Democrats who were originally opposed to the law supported the provision in hopes that it would help prevent the targeting of people of color openly carrying handguns.

“What’s going to happen is more interaction between police and black and brown and poor people because of lawful activity,” Rep. Harold Dutton told KXAN.

The provision made some sense, especially considering issues of racial profiling among Texas state troopers, but it was flawed. In May, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference that the provision would “handcuff” police officers and prevent them from doing their jobs. He was accompanied by members of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, and police unions from Houston and Dallas.

[…]

Experts predict that open carry will most likely take place in small numbers in rural areas, but unlike Oklahoma, six of the most populous cities in the country are in Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso. And that’s not taking into account the political climate around gun control in Texas this year. There have been number of demonstrators openly carrying rifles in large cities, the most recent being a group of armed protestors in front of a mosque in Irving and demonstrators who marched with rifles near UT-Austin and later held a mock mass shooting to protest “gun-free zones.” It’s still unclear why they felt the need to protest what would soon be law.

But one of the biggest concerns of law enforcement is establishing the fine line between respecting the rights of someone legally carrying a handgun and protecting the general public. “What happens when an officer sees someone openly carrying a handgun in a holster, in accordance with the law, what can an officer legally do?” Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the Houston Chronicle. “We keep getting more questions than answers.”

The fear is that open carry will make it harder for police officers to tell the difference between a law-abiding citizen legally carrying a gun and someone with criminal intentions carrying a gun. In the Houston Chronicle, comments like these from Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, don’t really help to clarify things.

Houston police, he said, will not “be doing random stops of people simply to see if they have a CHL,” but they also will not “sit back for 30 minutes” if they have a reasonable suspicion to stop someone.

So, what will they do?

Click over and see. I think open carry is bad policy, but I also think it will have a relatively minimal effect. You have to have a concealed carry license in order to be able to carry openly, and it was already legal before now for any yahoo with a cheap Soldier of Fortune fantasy to carry any manner of rifle around in public, as we have seen over and over again. It’s the interaction between law enforcement and those who will be openly carrying that is hard to predict. If I had a CHL, I’d probably continue to carry my weapon in a concealed fashion, because who needs the hassle? But then I’m not the type of person who likes to invite trouble to make a point. The other questions involve where people can carry, and how many lawsuits are going to be filed because someone disagreed with someone else’s interpretation of that, and also with how businesses will cater to those who want to carry and those who want to not be around people who carry. I won’t be surprised if that first issue, for this and for campus carry, is revisited in 2017.

Packing heat at the zoo

Yeah, this won’t cause any controversy.

Not any more

Houston Zoo officials have been forced to remove long-standing “no guns” signage from the city-owned property after a prominent gun rights attorney filed a complaint, marking the first visible local example of a new state law that targets government entities illegally restricting concealed carry.

Though the Houston Zoo is operated by a private entity, the Hermann Park land it sits on belongs to the city. Private business owners can restrict gun usage; on most government properties, however, licensed Texans are allowed to carry guns.

Now, under legislation that took effect Sept. 1, residents who believe governments are violating that law have a streamlined and strengthened means to file a complaint locally, with the option of appealing to the Texas attorney general. Local governments risk daily fines of up to $10,000, depending on the number of violations, if they fail to remove signage deemed illegal.

Houston attorney T. Edwin Walker with Texas Law Shield, a gun rights advocacy legal firm, quickly put the law to practice Sept. 3, sending a letter to the city stating the zoo’s “no guns” signs were illegal.

“A week later I get a call from the associate general counsel from the city of Houston that they couldn’t argue with my argument,” Walker said. “There was no getting around it.”

The signs came down Sept. 11, said zoo spokeswoman Jackie Wallace. Since then, zoo and city officials have been “investigating the legal implications of the request” and consulting with other Texas cities, Wallace said. Zoo officials said they’ve long believed the facility qualifies as an educational institution under state law, permitting the gun ban.

The same reasoning has been applied at the privately run but publicly situated Dallas Zoo, where officials are now confronting the same problem. A spokeswoman for the Dallas Zoo did not return requests for comment Monday about what the facility has done with its signs.

In Houston, Wallace said there was “no angst” between the zoo and the city. Both entities were working together to figure out if there were any legal remedies.

“We do recognize that this has the potential to confuse or concern our guests and members,” Wallace said. “And we want to emphasize that this will not alter our number-one priority, which is the safety of our guests, employees and animals.”

The Press talked to T. Edwin Walker:

“I guarantee there is no license holder who is going to go to the zoo in anticipation of shooting a giraffe in front of a bunch of school children,” Walker said in an interview. “The issue is just that this is a place where the government is not allowed to tell people that they can’t carry a licensed handgun. The Texas government has recognized that people have the right to defend themselves. How do they do that? With a gun.”

City crime statistics (and common sense) indicate the Houston Zoo is hardly the most unsafe place in town. It sits in a crime beat that stretches from the Southwest Freeway in the north to Old Spanish Trail in the south, with Main Street and Highway 288 serving as the east and west border, respectively. Since January 2010, 11 murders have been reported in that zone, and none of them happened at the zoo. By comparison, there have been 40 reported murders during the same time in the zone that encompasses Houston’s Sunnyside neighborhood.

Still, Walker said he wouldn’t necessarily feel safe and sound at the Houston Zoo without his gun.

“Unfortunately we live in a world where there are people who are intent to do harm unto others,” Walker said. “I don’t want to be punched in the face or stabbed with a knife. We are allowed to be secure in the knowledge that if somebody does attack me, I have the best tool available to defend myself. That tool is a gun.”

I’m not going to bother arguing with those statements, because this is one of those places where facts don’t really matter. I’m just going to say this: I grew up in New York City in the 70s and 80s. Charles Bronson, the Son of Sam, Bernie Goetz, Fort Apache The Bronx, The Warriors – this was the cultural background of my childhood. And yet, I don’t believe I knew anybody while I was growing up who had a gun. They just weren’t part of who we were. To this day, I just don’t understand the mindset expressed here by T. Edwin Walker. It has nothing to do with the relative level of safety and crime that we have here and now versus there and then. I just don’t get it. I’m not making any claims about right and wrong, and I have no argument with the interpretation of the law. As I said, I just don’t get it.

I fully expect there to be some backlash over this, and I support that. This is a political issue, and we didn’t get to this point without one side of that issue aggressively and successfully pursuing its agenda. The folks who don’t like it need to make a lot of noise, and figure out a way to translate that into some wins at the ballot box. But let’s all be honest about a couple of things. It was almost certainly the case that people brought guns into the zoo before last week – it’s been awhile since I was last there, but there were no bag checks or metal detectors at the gate, so anyone could have been packing heat in their purse or shoulder holster. Having a sign may deter some otherwise law-abiding folks, but it’s no deterrent to anyone who wanted to cause a problem. However bizarre it is to someone like me that someone like T. Edwin Walker can’t feel safe at the zoo unless he’s armed, the real problem is that as a country we’re up to our eyeballs in guns and that the sheer number of people killed every day by guns just doesn’t bother a lot of the rest of us, at least not enough to do anything about it. The debate about allowing guns at the Houston Zoo will pass. The bigger issue will be with us for a long time.

How will campuses handle campus carry?

Good question.

When it comes to guns on campus, University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven is in a bit of an awkward position.

A month ago, the former Navy admiral was one of the most vocal opponents of legislation allowing people to carry guns into university buildings. Now, the campus carry bill has become law, and McRaven must help determine exactly where guns will be allowed at the nine universities he oversees.

But he can’t simply ban guns altogether. Instead, he’ll walk a fine line between his views on safety and his job upholding the spirit of a law passed by a Legislature with strong views on gun rights. And he’ll try to do it with passionate advocates on both sides closely watching.

Similar scenarios will play out at schools across the state. Now that Gov. Greg Abbott has signed Senate Bill 11 into law, each four-year state school has 14 months to come up with its own policy on where concealed handguns may be carried by students or others with a state license. The new law provides few specifics on where those guns can or cannot be banned, leaving the process open to passionate debate.

“We are going to figure out how to make sure we do everything we can to protect the faculty and the students and the visitors and not impact academic freedom in any way,” McRaven said in an interview soon after SB 11 passed. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure we’re meeting the full intent of this bill.”

[…]

For the most part, the schools have offered few hints about how they will interpret the law. A few university presidents have sent out campus-wide emails saying they will consult students, faculty and staff before any decisions are made. Most discussions won’t start until fall, when more people are on campus.

“We are already aware that this is going to be one of the biggest issues that we are going to have next year,” said Adam Alattry, student body president at the University of North Texas for the 2015-16 year.

Alattry was opposed to campus carry, joining 12 other student body presidents in writing a letter to Abbott asking him not to sign the bill. But he acknowledged that some groups on his campus strongly favor campus carry. Reaching a compromise acceptable to everyone will be difficult, he said.

Chuck Hemptsead, executive director of the Texas Association of College Teachers, agreed. He said that an “overwhelming majority” of his members are opposed to allowing guns in classrooms.

“I think it will be an emotional thing,” he said.

Imposing too many restrictions would risk pushback from pro-gun groups and lawmakers, and legislators might be tempted to repeal the campuses’ autonomy in 2017 if that happens. And gun rights activists say they’ll be closely watching to make sure the schools don’t go too far.

“We know that is a possibility and we are prepared to take the necessary measures to protect students, faculty and staff,” said Michael Newbern, communications director for Students for Concealed Carry.

See here and here for some background. My guess is that private schools, with the possible exception of some smaller religious schools, will maintain their current no-guns-on-campus rules, as they are allowed to do under this law. Public schools like UT will have to walk a very fine line, with a lot of people watching them closely and a lot of very strong feelings involved. The law is fairly vague on how they can restrict guns, which gives them some leeway but will also invite a lot of scrutiny and criticism if they are perceived as going “too far”. Which, for some people, is any restrictions at all. There is no way to make everyone happy – hell, there’s probably no way to make most people anything less than disgruntled – and anything less than an “all guns all the time anywhere” policy will ensure that at least the fanatics will be back to push for complete victory in 2017. I don’t envy Chancellor McRaven or anyone else their task.

Campus student body presidents call for veto of campus carry bill

From the Rice Thresher:

In a letter signed by 12 other Texas university presidents, Student Association President Jazz Silva called for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to not sign Senate Bill 11, which would allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on college campuses statewide, including at Rice. Abbott has previously said he will sign the measure into law.

“I know that it is quite atypical of a Rice SA president to behave ‘politically’,” Silva said. “However, I feel that the letter is not only reasonable, but I trust that it is something Rice students would stand for.”

The law, if signed, would take effect on Aug 1, 2016 and allow those age 21 or above to carry a concealed handgun at Rice, unless the university opts out. A provision in the bill allows private institutions to do so if they first consult their faculty, staff and students, Rice President David Leebron said in staff-wide email.

“Should the governor sign the bill, we would engage in such consultation in the near future,” Leebron said. “Rest assured that, after those consultations, our expectation is to maintain [Rice’s current no-weapons policy] … In the coming months, we will take the steps needed to maintain [our] welcoming and secure campus.”

Silva’s letter states all Texas schools, not just private institutions, should be able to opt out should they desire.

“Not all university campuses are identical; they have different cultures, needs and beliefs,” the letter reads. “We trust that our administrators, students, and elected student representatives know how to create a safe educational environment. We should not only be enabled, but empowered to make these decisions on our own based on our individual needs, as universities.”

Silva said she and University of Texas at San Antonio Student Government Association President Ileana Gonzalez drafted the opposition letter together and gathered support from other Texas university presidents, who altogether represent over 300,000 students.

“I don’t speak directly to whether or not guns should be allowed on campus; I only ask that public universities be given the right to choose for themselves – the same right that private institutions currently have,” Silva said.

[…]

The letter is also signed by the student body presidents of Angelo State University, Trinity University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the UH Clear Lake, UT Austin, UH Downtown, San Jacinto College, Houston Community College and UT Dallas.

Good for them. Abbott will still sign the bill, but at least they’re making themselves heard. I’m glad to hear what Rice President Leebron has to say on the issue, and I suspect that at least the non-religiously-oriented private schools will follow that same path; I certainly expect my alma mater to do so. I hope someone follows up on this in a year or two – I’ll be very interested to see what direction the different schools take. The Chron and the Current have more.

Amended campus carry passes

All things considered, this could have been a lot worse.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

The Texas Senate took a final vote Saturday to approve legislation requiring the state’s public universities to allow handguns in dorms, classrooms and campus buildings.

Under the latest version of the bill, universities would be able to carve out gun-free zones in locations of their choice — establishing their own rules on where handguns are carried and how they’re stored based on public safety concerns.

Only concealed handgun license holders would be allowed to carry their firearms on campus, and private universities would be allowed to opt out of the requirement all together.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said his legislation would allow for “very limited, reasonable prohibitions” on handguns in certain locations on university property.

He said his intent was that public college campuses would be as “permissive and accessible” as possible to handgun license holders and that universities would be as “specific and as minimalistic as possible” in defining restricted areas.

The measure was approved along party lines with a 20-11 vote, with all of the chamber’s Democrats opposing it.

While acknowledging that the legislation had improved since its original form, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said she still believed it was “just bad policy.”

She expressed concern that handguns would now be permitted in an environment “already fraught with stress and often fragile emotions.”

I agree with Sen. Garcia and neither support this law nor see any reason to change the status quo. That said, I think if a couple of concealed handgun license holders had challenged the existing law in court, asserting their right to have a gun on a public university campus, I feel pretty confident they’d have won, and I’m not sure I’d have liked this hypothetical ruling any more than I like the new law. As far as private universities go, given all of the other things they are allowed to forbid their students from doing or having, allowing them to opt out seems wise. I’m sure there would be a religious freedom argument to be made if, say, a Quaker-affiliated university was required to allow guns on campus. As things now stand, I’d say the best thing to do is lobby the administration and board of trustees of your alma mater and urge them to adopt as tight a policy as possible.

Responding the only way they know how

That’s our Legislature.

In response to last week’s Connecticut school shooting, state Rep.-elect Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, says he will file legislation to allow public school teachers to carry concealed weapons while on campus.

The bill, which Villalba is calling the Protection of Texas Children Act, would permit Texas schools to appoint a member of their faculty as a “school marshal.” The marshal, with training and certification, would be able to “use lethal force upon the occurrence of an attack in the classroom or elsewhere on campus,” according to a press release from Villalba, a newly elected state representative.

“Unfortunately, law enforcement personnel cannot be everywhere at all times,” Villalba said in a statement. “We need to talk very frankly about how we can protect our children if the unthinkable should occur.”

So, to recap:

Will the state of Texas do anything to increase access to mental health services? Well, we’re not going to expand Medicaid, which will put a large burden on counties because of the loss of funding for uncompensated care at public hospitals, and counties are the largest providers of mental health services, so that would be a “no”.

Will the state of Texas do anything to restrict access to the kind of weaponry whose only use is to hunt humans? Please. Don’t you know that the right to high-capacity magazines is protected by the Constitution?

And we haven’t even gotten to the best part:

Villalba’s proposal would create a training system for potential concealed-weapon holding employees of public schools, which would be paid for either by school districts or the employees themselves. Under his plan, there would be one armed employee for every 400 students, marshals who would be unidentifiable except to the school principal, law enforcement and school district administrators. The employees would purchase and maintain their own weapons.

So these “school marshals”, who will presumably be expected to put themselves in the line of fire in the event there ever is an armed intrusion of a school, will be volunteers using their own equipment, and they may have to pay for their own training, because the state of Texas won’t be providing any funding for it. How will principals ever be able to choose from the flood of applicants they’ll surely get for this plum assignment? I’m hard pressed to think of a “solution” to a problem that more thoroughly embodies the current philosophy of the Republican Party than this. Bravo, Rep. Villalba.

To be fair, Land Commissioner/Lite Guv candidate Jerry Patterson has a sensible suggestion for closing the gun show loophole, which ought to help keep a few guns away from bad guys. Obviously, no single solution will cover all contingencies, and ultimately there’s only so much that can be done to deter a determined criminal. But there are simple and obvious things we can and should do to try and prevent gun-related tragedies, and if there’s ever a time to be seeking those answers, it’s now. Kudos to Patterson for taking it seriously. I just hope he has some company.

UPDATE: The following press release just hit my inbox:

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten react to proposals by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, and William Bennett to arm teachers as a way to prevent school violence.

“Our duty to every child is to provide safe and secure public schools. That is the vow we take as educators. It is both astounding and disturbing that following this tragedy, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, Bill Bennett, and other politicians and pundits have taken to the airwaves to call for arming our teachers. As the rest of the country debates how to keep guns out of schools, some are actually proposing bringing more guns in, turning our educators into objects of fear and increasing the danger in our schools.

“Guns have no place in our schools. Period. We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.

“But this is not just about guns. Long-term and sustainable school safety also requires a commitment to preventive measures. We must continue to do more to prevent bullying in our schools. And we must dramatically expand our investment in mental health services. Proper diagnosis can and often starts in our schools, yet we continue to cut funding for school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists. States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. It is well past time to reverse this trend and ensure that these services are available and accessible to those who need our support.

“Greater access to mental health services, bullying prevention, and meaningful action on gun control—this is where we need to focus our efforts, not on staggeringly misguided ideas about filling our schools with firearms. Lawmakers at every level of government should dismiss this dangerous idea and instead focus on measures that will create the safe and supportive learning environments our children deserve.”

I completely agree.

Voter ID passes the House

As expected. There was a long and often contentious debate, but when you have a 2/3 majority as the Republicans currently do, you usually get what you want.

Gov. Rick Perry declared the voter ID issue an emergency issue, which also ranks as a high priority for the Texas Republican Party. The House tentatively approved the measure, 101-48. Republicans control the chamber, 101-49.

Because Republicans defeated amendment after amendment intended to make it easier for voters to cast ballots, Democrats suggested Republicans were primarily interested in suppressing votes of minority Texans – who usually lean Democratic.

“We fear it’s about voter suppression,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

“It’s all about shaping the voter pool to benefit the Republican Party,” Rep. Joaquin Castro said.

Legislators spent nearly 12 hours considering some 60 amendments.

Republicans defeated an amendment that would have allowed college and high school students to use their government-issued ID cards for voting. Democrats also lost their bid to extend photo identification to same-day registration, which would allow eligible voters to simultaneously register and cast a ballot if they produced proper identification.

So you can’t use your government-issued student ID card to vote, but you can use your government-issued concealed carry license to vote. Go figure.

This isn’t quite the end in the Lege for this. As with the sonogram bill, the House and Senate versions differ – among other things, the House stripped out the Senate’s exemption for voters over the age of 70 on an amendment by Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen – so it will have to go to a conference committee to iron it all out. Unlike the sonogram bill, the resulting legislation doesn’t need to be acceptable to any Senate Democrats, as there is no two-thirds rule for voter ID bills. I don’t expect there to be any serious complications.

As I said before, this will all ultimately be decided in the courts. The Texas Independent notes that a current case may have an effect on that, and gives some general background.

Some observers, including an Indiana law expert, believe that Pres. Barack Obama’s DOJ might be inclined to act differently than Bush’s DOJ, especially given the strictness of Texas’ legislation. Read the Texas Independent for previous reporting.

If the voter ID bill becomes law, then Texas would also have the option of bypassing the DOJ in favor of a three-judge panel in D.C. Whether the judicial panel would be more favorable than the DOJ to Texas’ law is up for speculation.

Saying that the DOJ “really should have denied preclearance” to the Georgia law — considering that DOJ staffers’ recommendation to disapprove the law was overruled by White House appointees — election law professor Daniel P. Tokaji said, “I think there’s a very good chance Texas will be denied preclearance if [voter photo ID legislation] becomes law.”

Tokaji is a professor of law at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. He recently wrote a commentary opposing voter photo ID legislation being considered in Ohio.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in support of Indiana’s voter photo ID law largely because opponents were unable to produce sufficient proof of voter disenfranchisement. However, as Tokaji points out, those guidelines are different for a Section 5 preclearance decision.

“In a Section 5 challenge, the covered entity actually has the burden of proving the measure will not have a retrogressive impact on minorities,” he said.

“I think there’s a very strong argument that it would violate Section 5,” Tokaji said.

Clearly, there’s much about this that’s still up in the air, and we may not know the final outcome for months, if not years. Until then, ponder this:

Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, wanted to give counties an exemption from complying with the legislation if it would cost them money to implement. Nearly 90 lawmakers have sponsored a resolution this session opposing unfunded mandates for local communities.

Menendez lost, 98-48.

Some unfunded mandates are better than others, obviously. Greg, EoW, and the Trib has more, and a statement from Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Jessica Farrar is beneath the fold.

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Ethics ID

According to Martha, State Rep. Ken Legler (R, HD144) has filed HB1036, which would require two forms of ID to file an ethics complaint with the TEC. Who knew that ethics complaint fraud was so rampant in Texas? Clearly, our Attorney General has fallen down on the job in investigating this. I just want to know if Rep. Legler would accept an amendment to allow a concealed handgun license as an acceptable form of ID for these purposes. Because that’s how we roll around here.

Have gun, can vote

During the long debate over voter ID in the Senate, the Democrats proposed many amendments, most of which were defeated on straight party lines. Here, via the Chron, is one of the very few that passed:

18. Hinojosa – Accept CHL as a form of ID. Accepted by a vote of 30-0.

Clearly, the answer to Democratic concerns about voter ID is to ensure that everyone in the state gets a concealed handgun license. I don’t even have a smartass remark for that.

Inevitably, voter ID passed the Senate – the only question was how long it would take – so next up is the House, where the only question is whether Aaron Pena goes full monty and votes for it or not. Speaking of Pena, he might want to get a new drivers license, with a photo that actually resembles him, lest he wind up getting turned away from the ballot box some day. Harold has more on that.

You can be sure that a lawsuit will be filed over this, and before that the Justice Department will presumably subject the law to a review. While it’s true that laws in Georgia and Indiana (home of those devious nuns; and may I say “The Devious Nuns” would make an excellent band name) have passed constitutional muster before, it’s also true that Texas’ law is more stringent than theirs, meaning that it’s entirely possible that whatever line exists for this kind of legislation has been crossed. The legislative fight may be all over but for the shouting, but that won’t be the end of it.

No open carry

The “Open Carry” movement, which was advocating for a change to Texas’ concealed carry law to allow guns to be worn in plain view, appears to have failed as no bill was filed to achieve this end.

[A]fter months lobbying the Legislature, members of the grassroots gun group [OpenCarry.org] have conceded that they could not persuade any Texas lawmaker to file open carry legislation this session, said Ian McCarthy, a student who chairs the Texas Open Carry Work Group.

“I’ve been calling, meeting, doing everything but nobody wants to introduce it,” he said.

It’s not as if there wasn’t ample interest among lawmakers, McCarthy said, but “most of them are just loaded down with so many bills they’ve already introduced.”

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, whom the open carry folks tagged months ago as the bills presumptive sponsor, had the legislation drafted but never introduced it. Her chief of staff explained to open carry members in an email that such legislation was unlikely to pass and that talks of an open carry proposal have already caused difficulties for other Second Amendments bills.

I find this more than a little surprising, but as had been noted before, this may have been a bit of a turf battle.

In the roughly six months since the group started fundraising through online donations to pay for radio spots, billboards and advertising on taxi’s across Texas, they apparently did little to gain favor with the gun lobby.

The Texas State Rifle Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, never publicly supported the proposal, saying instead they were focusing this session on their current agenda, which did not include open carry. Ultimately, the lack of support from the influential gun lobby could have doomed the group’s efforts to get a bill introduced, open carry members opined on their forums.

I have a hard time believing that a bill like this can’t get passed in Texas. But it’ll have to wait till next session.

Big (gun)man on campus

Did you ever wish you could pack heat on a college campus? Maybe someday soon, you’ll be able to.

Michael Guzman, a 25-year-old Texas State University senior and Marine veteran, takes his Kimber Ultra Carry II handgun just about everywhere he goes. Except to school.

Texas lawmakers, how­ever, are crafting ways to allow licensed handgun owners to tote their guns more easily. One proposal would let guns be carried on campuses, and another would allow licensed handgun owners to openly brandish their guns in public.

Together, the two issues are likely to be the most contentious gun-related laws of the session.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, is preparing the campus concealed-carry gun measure. He calls it a “safety protection bill” for students and faculty.

“I don’t want to wake up one morning and hear on the news that some madman went on a Texas campus and picked off Texas students like sitting ducks,” Wentworth said. “I’m doing what I can to prevent that from happening in Texas.”

Yes, we wouldn’t want to discourage anyone’s John McClane fantasies. Jokes aside, I don’t as yet see any bill authored by Sen. Wentworth that addresses this, so I can’t really say much more than that, but I do have a question: Is this only intended for public universities, or for all of them, public and private? I can see the justification for the former, but if it’s the latter, should the state be imposing on them like this? Private universities restrict a number of otherwise-legal things their students can do – I don’t see why this shouldn’t be one of them. There may be constitutional issues as well – what if there’s a religious school that bans guns because it considers them to be sinful? Like I said, I don’t see a bill yet, but that will be something to look for.

As for the other issue:

At present, people with handgun permits have to keep their weapons concealed.

Ian McCarthy, a 22-year-old online marketing entrepreneur in Austin, wants to be able to brandish one openly.

“Criminals want an easy target. When they see you can fight back, they’re going to go somewhere else,” McCarthy said.

He is a member of the national pro-gun group OpenCarry.org, which has raised more than $10,000 online to buy radio and billboard ads across the state and has collected more than 53,000 online Texas signatures in favor of changing the law.

I’ve already said that I’m supportive of this effort, but I still can’t read about it without thinking of something Molly Ivins wrote way back when the concealed-carry law was being debated. She suggested that everyone who was carrying be required to wear a propeller beanie so the rest of us would know who we’re dealing with. You could say this would have the same effect.

On a side note, I see that the two groups mentioned in this story are working at cross-purposes. That ought to add an interesting angle to the debates.