Knife Ban Repeal Passes Senate

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Congratulations, Free Texans! HB1935 is on its way to Governor Abbott’s desk. Facing practically no opposition this session, the bill is certain to become law.

This bill modernizes and clarifies knife laws in Texas, removing the terms “sword,” “spear,” “dirk,” “stiletto,” “poniard,” and “bowie knife” from the penal code. It also repeals the ban on carrying knives with blades over 5.5″ in length and double-edged blades. It will still be illegal to carry long-blade knives in certain areas, most notably in bars.

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TX House Goes Full “Smackdown”

Things got out of hand yesterday at the Texas House of Representatives.

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The final day of the 85th legislative session was disrupted by an organized mob of self-described illegal aliens who were protesting the ban on santuary cities. After losing patience with the mob tactics, Rep. Matt Rinaldi announced from the floor that he’d called federal immigration officials to deal with them. At that point, Democrats, including Rep. Pancho Nevarez, aka “Panic Button Poncho,” physically attacked him and began a shoving match that cleared the dugouts.

Rinaldi claims that Nevarez threatened his life, saying he’d “get him” in the parking lot. Rinaldi fired back that any such attempt would be met with lethal force.

Longtime readers will note the irony. After a contentious meeting with pro-gun activists in 2015, Rep. Nevarez said that he felt threatened and asked for “panic buttons” to be installed in legislative offices.

If Rep. Nevarez has indeed adopted “legislation by death threat” as a tactic, one wonders whether his Republican colleague Rep. Drew Springer still has his “I’m Poncho” sticker.

Republican Rep. Drew Springer in 2015

Republican Rep. Drew Springer in 2015

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Comin’ Up Snake-eyes?

Constitutional Carry in Texas is dead for another two years.

Even worse, other good gun bills such as HB560, the “carry everywhere” bill, died in committee.

None of these bills were voted down in the traditional sense, by the overwhelmingly Republican state legislature. Rather, House Republican Leadership simply denied them the opportunity of an up-or-down vote.

These officials are to blame.

Speaker Joe Straus

As Speaker of the House, Rep. Straus determines the leadership of each committee, and is responsible for assigning bills to committees. In this case, he diverted two constitutional carry bills, as well as HB560, to Rep. Phil King’s Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

Rep. Phil King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee

As Chairman, Rep. King is responsible for bringing bill up for a vote early enough in the session so that there is time to schedule them for a floor vote and send them to the Senate. Rep. King never scheduled HB560 for a vote. He worked to delay both constitutional carry bills as long as possible. HB1911 was watered down and ultimately passed out of committee, but by that point it was too late for it to make it to a floor vote.

Rep. Todd Hunter, Chairman of the House Calendars Committee

Rep. Todd Hunter is responsible for bringing bills that have passed committee to the floor for a full member vote. He had time to schedule HB1911 for a floor vote, but failed to do so.

To be clear, none of these bills would have been killed if not for Speaker Straus’ failure to lead in accordance with the wishes of Republican voters. It is foolish to blame the Democrats, when Republicans have a 95 – 55 majority in the House, and a 20 – 11 majority in the Senate.

In 2017, your freedom to keep and bear arms in Texas remains lagging behind behind other states, and your Republican leadership is to blame.

Knife Ban Repeal Update

HB1935, which would repeal our outdated blade length and double-edge restrictions, has passed the House and is now in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The Committee is chaired by one well-known to this publication, Democrat Sen. John Whitmire.

Sen. Whitmire has been a tough opponent at times, but as Dean of the Senate, he is reasonable and commands a great deal of respect among his colleagues. A criminal law expert, Sen. Whitmire was responsible for rewriting the Texas Penal Code several years ago when it needed to be updated. Please call his office at (512) 463-0115 and respectfully request that he schedule HB1935 for a vote. Considering that Sen. Whitmire is a Democrat, you might mention the following talking points:

  • Under current Texas law, one can openly carry a .45 ACP pistol or an AK-47, but a 3″ pocket knife with a double-edged blade may be considered an illegal “dagger,” which is not defined in the statute.
  • Knife laws like this are used by law enforcement to charge criminal defendants when evidence of a serious crime is lacking. This practice disproportionately affects minorities. For instance, Freddy Gray, whose arrest and subsequent death in a police van led to civil unrest in Baltimore, was arrested for suspicion of carrying an illegal knife.
  • The Penal Code does not clearly define the characteristics of an illegal knife, but relies heavily on antiquated terms like “dirk,” “stiletto,” and “poniard.”
  • As amended in committee, this bill still prevents the carry of a long-bladed (over 5.5″) knife in places where such things would be inappropriate, such as a bar.
  • Finally, the bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, 131-1.

Update

We received new information that Sen. Whitmire has signed on as a cosponsor of the knife repeal bill, so it’s likely to pass. Please call and thank him for his support!

Also, if you’re in Austin, HB1935 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate at 3:00PM in E1.004 (Capitol Auditorium). Please go and register your support and, if you’re prepared to do so, testify.

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Editorial: Is Campus Carry a “Right”?

Gun owners love to talk about “rights.” Rights are so essential to our politics that we frame every issue in terms of the same, without even realizing that other formulations are possible.

Is there any American political issue that doesn’t get this treatment? The federal government tells us that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, and that Title IX guarantees a woman’s civil right to educational opportunity equal to that of a man.

However, rights have vague origins, and few even agree as to which rights exist. Case in point: Neither the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights nor the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union claim that the rights enumerated therein are God-given. Nor do they mention an individual right to be armed. Here in the United States, our founding documents state that rights come from the Creator, and that there is a right to bear arms. Yet only about half of the country seems to take either notion seriously.

There may be good reasons to formulate pro-gun policies that have nothing to do with rights, which is still a fairly recent legal concept in human history. But this is a debate for another day (watch this space). Rights are a foundational–if imperfect– feature of American law, and that is unlikely to change soon.

Which brings us to campus carry.

Last session, the State of Texas removed most of the prohibitions against carrying concealed weapons in public university buildings. Private universities are still allowed to ban weapons. This compromise was said to balance the right to bear arms against the rights of property owners, in this case the private universities’ governing bodies.

At face value, this seems reasonable. Most judicial opinions weigh various rights against one another or against some perceived state interest. But when fundamental rights are abrogated, courts rarely concern themselves whether they are infringed by a private or public entity– and with good reason.

Consider a thought experiment. Imagine a private university, as part of its code of conduct, forbade its adult students from voting in public elections while they attended classes there. If any university were able (and foolish enough) to enforce such a provision, it would be promptly sued in federal court, probably by the Department of Justice itself. No court in the nation would accept the defense that the institution’s private status allows it demand that students relinquish their voting rights.

The reason is that our laws emphasize individual, fundamental rights over mere contractual or property rights of corporate bodies. The Supreme Court wrote that “the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty” (McDonald v. City of Chicago, 2010), thereby affirming an individual Constitutional right to own weapons in one’s home. This is, at the very least, a definitive strike against private colleges’ gun ban loophole regarding students who live on campus. Baylor University wouldn’t dare state in court that its private status exempts it from federal civil rights law, or that its privately-owned dorms are “Title IX-free zones.” Why, then, is Baylor allowed to enforce anti-gun dorm rules that effectively prevent residents from owning weapons? Does this not violate the very rights that the Court affirmed in McDonald?

One may object that Title IX is distinguishable, because it only applies to universities that accept federal money. In other words, those who take government money must operate by government rules. This is a fair point. But all Texas college students are eligible to apply for the Tuition Equalization Grant (Texas Education Code, §61.221). With the Republicans dominating the Legislature, it should be trivial to pass a law that reserves state college money to those institutions that allow their students and staff to be armed. If the Federal government can impose Title IX this way, why can’t Texas use similar legislation to defend gun rights?

Despite the injustice, the courts are unlikely to undo the balancing act performed only two years ago by the Legislature. Now that the predicted mass shootings have failed to materialize after six months of licensed campus carry at public colleges, pro-gun legislators should act while they still have the momentum and close the private university loophole.

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Campus Carry Passes House and Senate

Campus Carry is going to Governor Abbott for his signature!

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It’s been a long, hard battle to get free victim zones (so-called “gun free zones”) removed from campus. While this bill is a huge step in the right direction, there is more work to be done next session.

  • Further restrict or remove universities’ ability to establish free victim zones. In the bill as passed, if a college sets a free victim zone on campus, violating that rule becomes a criminal offense. Why should colleges have the right to legislate criminal law in our state?
  • Remove private university exemption from campus carry. Being a private university doesn’t get Baylor or Southern Methodist University around Title IX. Why should it get them around Texas criminal law?
  • Define “intoxicated” for purposes of prohibiting the carrying of weapons. While no one wants a drunk carrying a gun, the current statute is poorly defined, as there is no definition of “intoxicated” for purposes of this section. As written, the statute could be used to arrest a licensed person carrying his gun while under the influence of Benadryl.
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Open Carry Passed in Both Houses!

We did it!

For the first time in Texas history, Texans will have the legal right to openly carry a holstered centerfire handgun.

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Less than a week from the deadline, the conference committee met immediately after conferees were assigned and had agreed upon a report within a few hours. Last night, the House and Senate both approved the report, passing HB 910 and sending it to Governor Abbott.

Governor Abbott immediately tweeted his support:

Open Carry just passed in both the Texas House & Senate. Next destination: My Pen. #txlege #tcot @NRA

Thanks to Open Carry Texas, Lone Star Gun Rights, Texas Firearms Freedom, Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, Senators Estes, Huffines, and Birdwell, and all of the Republican representatives and senators who made this common sense legislation happen.

The Republican Representatives that we castigated in a previous post for rejecting concurrence earlier in the week came around in the end. It’s become clear that the first concurrence vote wasn’t an underhanded attempt to kill the bill, as we had feared, and was just part of the wheeling and dealing nature of Texas politics. The previous post has been updated as a result.

So check out Hillsman Holster, Raven Concealment, Crossbreed, Alessi, Tucker & Byrd, and all your other favorite holster manufacturers.

Now on to SB11 (Campus Carry), which is eligible for a vote at 12:40AM Sunday, May 31, dangerously close to the legislative deadline at midnight.

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Procedural Abuse Endangers Open Carry

Update: This post was made when passage of HB 910 was looking unlikely. While we support the bill as passed, the fact is that the law enforcement lobby convinced the named representatives to remove a part of the bill at the last minute, which almost killed it. This should not have happened, especially considering that the police unions were opposed to open carry from the start, and it is troubling that the law enforcement lobby has this level of influence. However, most of the legislators below, including Doc Anderson, voted for the bill in the end and we appreciate their support. Thus, the “Wall of Shame” has been renamed.

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Why, Doc, Why?

The House rejected concurrence on HB910 Wednesday, even though the version of the bill being decided was practically the same as the one they had already passed. Basically, this happened because of two groups of people:

  1. Anti-gun democrats who opposed the bill all along
  2. Republicans who placed the interests of the liberal police chiefs like Art Acevedo and the police lobby (CLEAT) ahead of the interests of everyday gun owners

A concurrence vote happens when a bill passed by one house is amended or substituted in the other house. The goal is to iron out the differences between the two versions of the bill. In this case, the version passed by the House was virtually identical to that passed by the Senate, the only difference being some minor grammatical differences between the amendment added by Sen. Huffines and the original Rep. Dutton amendment. However, the representatives abused the concurrence vote to tie up a bill they had previously passed.

You can read more here.

TX Open Carry Wall of Shame Hall of Confusion 2015

Here are the Republican representatives who voted against sending this bill to Governor Abbott and have endangered its success on the eve of Sunday’s deadline.

The surprising thing here is that with the exception of Rep. Four Price and Rep. Debbie Riddle, everyone else on this list previously voted to pass this bill with the Dutton Amendment intact on April 20th, 2015. Please keep this in mind when you call to express your disappointment.

Your representative may try to claim they couldn’t support the bill with the “no stop-and-frisk” amendment intact, but virtually all of them had previously voted for an identical bill. Except for Reps. Price and Riddle, the representatives below have abused the concurrence process. This is precisely the kind of thing that makes pro-gun voters feel they are being deceived as their bills are killed behind closed doors.

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Open Carry Concurrence vote at 2:30 Today

Call your reps! The anti-gunners certainly are. See the “Call these Officials” to find your representative.

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Campus Carry Dead?

SB11 was amended and significantly watered down in the second reading last night, just before the midnight deadline. As with previous bills, this one now has a provision that would allow universities to designate “gun free” zones.

This could actually a step backward from where we stand now, where at least concealed carry is legal in parking garages and on campus grounds. In any case, the bill is up for the third reading today in the House. If it passes in any form, it will still need to go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

It is theoretically possible that the amendments could be stripped upon today’s third reading or in a conference committee with the Senate. That is the last hope for campus carry this session.

How did this happen, you may ask? Keep in mind that there were plenty of days this session where this bill sat in the Homeland Security and Calendars Committee. Frankly, the House Republican leadership did not make, nor has it ever made, campus carry a priority, as the Texas GOP platform directed.

We collectively urge the legislature to pass “constitutional carry” legislation, whereby law-abiding citizens that possess firearms can legally exercise their God-given right to carry that firearm as well. Until such time, we urge the state to re-introduce and pass legislation easing current restrictions on firearms such as open carry and campus carry.

The House and Senate leadership both know about the various deadlines for bills imposed by the Texas Constitution. However, most voters are unaware of these deadlines, and the leadership takes advantage of this ignorance to kill bills that rock the boat. To keep this from happening in the future, two changes are needed:

  1. A new Speaker of the House. Rep. Joe Straus needs to go.
  2. Gun rights supporters need to become more aware of House and Senate deadlines, and we need to reference this knowledge when we call our reps. We will be posting links to this information on our Info page.

Open Carry Concurrence Vote

HB910 became eligible for a concurrence vote yesterday at 2:40PM. However, it does not appear on the Supplemental House Calendar as of this writing. Updates will be forthcoming.

Knife Ban Repeal in Jeopardy

HB3884, the repeal of the outdated ban on long-blade or double-edged knives, was recommended for the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar, yet it inexplicably has not appeared. It must be brought for a vote today in the Senate or the bill dies.

CALL NOW and ask Chairman John Whitmire to request a floor vote on HB 3884 ASAP! Phone: 512-463-0115

Knife Ban Preemption Passed by Senate

HB905, the Knife Ban Preemption, should now be on it’s way to the Governor’s desk. This would prevent counties and municipalities from banning possession of knives that are not already banned by state law.

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Open Carry Passes Senate, Campus Carry Vote Today!

You did it.

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HB910, licensed open carry, has passed its final major vote before heading to Governor Abbott’s desk, thought a (hopefully) uneventful concurrence vote will take place first in the House.

Please call Rep. Phillips, Senator Estes, Senator Huffines, and Senator Birdwell to thank them for pushing this necessary bill.

However, this was a bill that the establishment fought hard to kill, and the fight was illuminating. See here. In a nutshell:

  1. When HB910 came to a floor vote in the house, Rep. Dutton sought to amend the bill, adding a “no stop-and-frisk” provision that would keep law enforcement from asking to see the license of a person because they were carrying a weapon. The “Dutton Amendment” was approved, and the amended bill was passed and sent to the Senate.
  2. Last Monday, in the Senate State Affairs committee hearing, Sen. Joan Huffman (R – Houston) sought to strip the Dutton Amendment from the bill. The committee agreed to this. The Dutton Amendment was removed and this new version of the bill went to the full Senate. This meant that if the bill was passed, it would have to be sent back to the House for another vote, because the Senate’s version was now different than that passed by the House.
  3. On Friday, HB910 came up to the full senate for debate. But first, freshman Senator Don Huffines proposed to amend HB910 to re-add the Dutton Amendment from the floor. An epic debate followed, where other senators– including Sen. Huffman and Sen. John Whitmire (D – Houston)– tried to convince Sen. Huffines to withdraw the amendment. Yet Huffines stood his ground, and the debate went well into the night. At the end of the day, HB910 passed with the Dutton Amendment intact, 20 – 11. Sen. Joan Huffman was the sole Republican “nay” vote on the final vote.
  4. Many thought the bill should have then gone straight to Governor Abbott’s desk to be signed into law. Unfortunately, it turns out that it must go back to the House for a concurrence vote or possibly a conference committee. Some believed this to be the result of a “clerical error” that caused the House and Senate versions of the Dutton Amendment to be slightly different. Others say this was inevitable because Sen. Huffman insisted on the committee substitute version last Monday during the State Affairs hearing. Either way, HB910 is scheduled as “eligible” for a vote at 2:40PM today.

Though most supporters remain optimistic, many are concerned with all of the procedural wrangling with only one week remaining in the legislative session.

Final House Vote on Campus Carry This Week

SB17, Campus Concealed Carry, is now on the Major State Calendar for today, Tuesday, May 26. This should be an epic battle. Watch the debate here. There are other bills to consider as well, so SB17 will probably not be first on the agenda when the House convenes at 10:00AM.

If there is any question as to where your Representative stands on SB17, call them now! and politely ask that they vote for SB17 without any amendments. If SB17 is amended, it will have to make another (unlikely) trip back through the Senate with little time remaining in the session. If the House passes a “clean” bill, it will go to the Governor’s desk.

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Call These Officials
  • Governor Greg Abbott
    512-463-2000
  • Lt. Governor Dan Patrick
    512-463-0001
  • Speaker Joe Straus
    512-463-1000
  • Sen. John Whitmire (Chair, Senate Criminal Justice Cmte.)
    512-463-0115
  • Rep. Phil King (Chair, Homeland Security / Public Safety Cmte.)
    512-463-0738
Find your State Representative and Senator