Variety of Gun-Related Bills on Table for Session
While December's fatal shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school led the Obama administration to re-examine federal gun laws, Texas lawmakers have been hard at work on gun-related legislation since November, when they were first able to file bills for the 83rd legislative session. Most of those bills aim to widen rather than restrict access to guns.
Texas lawmakers have not been shy from speaking out on President Obama's recent proposal, with some praising it and others harshlycriticizing it. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry called for prayer instead of gun restrictions.
"It's business as usual in Texas," said Alice Tripp, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association.
At least 20 bills have been filed or proposed by Texas lawmakers on the subject of guns. Here's a roundup of the proposed legislation:
Concealed handguns on college campuses
Some of the bills revive legislative battles from the past. On Thursday, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and 13 other co-authors filed Senate Bill 182, which would allow the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses. Similar bills were defeated during the last two sessions, but Tripp, who lobbies for gun owners, said she was hopeful, noting that in the past, "It's not like there was an overwhelming cry."
"Colleges are predator magnets," she said. "Law enforcement does a wonderful job, but they cannot personally protect 50,000 students."
The bill's detractors, however, are around to fight it again. "Everybody knew that it would never pass," said Marsha McCartney, a volunteer with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's just one step too far for the gun lobby to go." She pointed to what happened in August at the University of Colorado, where administrators announced that a dorm would be set aside for students who wanted to carry concealed handguns, only to find that no students wanted to live there.
Concealed handguns at public schools
Other bills and proposals by Texas lawmakers, however, are likely to spark new debates. Several related to public schools were taken up in the wake of the Newtown shooting. State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, has proposed allowing more school teachers to carry concealed weapons. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called last week for more firearms training for school employees. State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston has filed House Bill 223, which would allow school board officials to bring concealed handguns to their meetings. State Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, filed HB 507, creating a misdemeanor if a hunter accidentally shoots a gun and the bullet crosses the property line of an "educational facility."
Concealed handgun permits
Multiple bills are concerned with the requirements for carrying a concealed handgun. HB47by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, would decrease the required number of classroom hours for an initial concealed carry license from 10 hours to 4 hours. Flynn also filedHB 48, which would allow concealed handgun carriers to renew their licenses online. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, has filed HB 158 that would allow concealed carry licenses to be a part of driver's licenses, and HB 153,which would clarify an existing law that makes it illegal to carry a concealed handgun while intoxicated. His bill would bring the definition of "intoxicated" in line with drunken driving laws.
State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, has filed HB 485, which would lower the fees for veterans and peace officers when they obtain a license. HB 572, by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, and its companion, SB 164 by Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, would allow veterans to note their status on the the licenses.
One bill that restricts concealed handgun rights is HB 383, filed by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, which would keep Texas residents from using a concealed handgun permit issued by another state
Several other gun-related bills have been filed or proposed. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, has said he plans to file legislation to require training for buyers of certain guns. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is planning to file a bill to require background checks for purchases at gun shows. HB 333, by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, would require hotels to let people know when they have a no-firearms policy before they book a stay. Guillen also filed HB 508, which would make it a misdemeanor for a public employee to turn a licensed concealed handgun carrier away from a public building.
And state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, has filed a bill, HB 553, calling any federal intrusion on gun rights "unconstitutional." His bill would make it illegal for law enforcement officers in Texas to implement any federal laws "relating to confiscating any firearm, banning any firearm, limiting the size of a magazine for any firearm, imposing any limit on the ammunition that may be purchased for any firearm," "taxing any firearm or ammunition," or "requiring the registration of any firearm or ammunition." State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, has said he would file a similar bill.