Open Carry Bill Derailed on Texas House Floor

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*Editor’s note: This story was updated after House Bill 910 was sent back to the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

A technical error on Tuesday delayed the Texas House debate on legislation that would allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns openly in public places.

A point of order by state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, derailed the House floor discussion on House Bill 910 before it even started. His action targeted an error in how witness testimony was recorded. The bill, by state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, now returns to the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, where the error will be fixed.

The same issue also resulted in delaying House Bill 40, legislation that addresses local control over oil and gas activities.

At an impromptu news conference explaining the error, Phillips said a glitch in the computer systems had affected more than 100 bills and misreported testimony by witnesses at committee hearings who were testifying on more than one bill.

The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety met immediately after the House adjourned and fixed the error. The committee passed the corrected legislation and sent it back to the House, where it will likely be debated on Friday, Phillips said.

“Obviously the person that brought this was against the policy of licensed open carry,” Phillips said.

When HB 910 returns to the House floor, it is widely expected to pass — more than half of the House’s 150 members are cosponsors of the bill.

The Senate passed its own version of the legislation in March, and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign any open carry bill that reaches his desk.

The new law would come despite the protests of many law enforcement officials, who have said that openly armed citizens would endanger both police officers and the communities they try to protect — and strain the already limited resources of local police departments.

“Right now, I’m doing good to send two deputies to a very dangerous situation,” Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia told lawmakers at a February Senate hearing. “Now when we get a call, shots fired or disturbance with guns involved, we typically think one person is creating chaos. Now we may have many people.”

Lawmakers and gun rights advocates have argued that the change is needed to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding handgun license holders.

“It’s time to let them take off their coats to pump their gas in August,” said Alice Tripp, a lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, at a House hearing on Phillips’ bill in March.

Texas is one of only a few states that bans open carry, though it has less restrictive firearms licensing and purchasing laws than many of the states that do allow it.

In both the House and Senate, licensed open carry proposals have also faced criticism from a vocal faction of gun rights supporters who favor repealing handgun permitting requirements altogether.

Arguing that the costs of obtaining a concealed handgun license and the restrictions the state places on applicants violate Second Amendment rights, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has championed so-called constitutional carry in the House.

Neither Stickland’s measure nor its Senate companion have received committee hearings.

Stickland, who did not return a request for comment Monday, told The Texas Tribune in February that he had vowed to amend any gun bill that came to the House floor in an effort to remove licensing requirements.

“I have promised a record vote, and we will get it,” he said.

Source: Texas Tribune

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