This year, we were able to build on our past legislative successes (passage of Texas` "Right To Carry" law in 1995, key reforms to that law in 1997, and legislation preempting municipal lawsuits against the gun industry in 1999) to take care of some important unfinished business: passage of much-needed shooting range protection legislation and a bill to get NRA`s Eddie Eagle GunSafe firearm accident prevention program introduced in most, if not all of, the larger school districts in Texas!
And while accomplishing this, we were able to defeat a record number of attacks on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, including:
- Four bills banning or restricting the sale of privately-owned firearms at gun shows: HB 367 by Rep. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen), HB 404 by Rep. Debra Danburg (D-Houston), HB 635 by Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) and SB 294 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).
- Three bills mandating the sale of faulty, unreliable trigger-locking devices with firearms bought from licensed dealers: HB 446 & HB 1410 by Rep. Glenn Lewis (D-Fort Worth) and SB 88 by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston).
- Two bills restricting the lawful possession and use of long guns by minors: HB 193 by Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) and HB 209 by Rep. John Longoria (D-San Antonio).
- A ban on handgun possession by anyone under the age of 21: HB 1332 by Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas).
In addition to accomplishing our goal of defeating every attack on the rights of honest gun owners, NRA-ILA and TSRA passed three important pieces of legislation that are awaiting final action by Governor Rick Perry (the governor has until June 17 to act on items that have reached his desk):
- HB 1837 by Rep. Mary Denny (R-Aubrey) & Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) will protect Texas` safe and valuable shooting range facilities from frivolous nuisance lawsuits based on noise. It made important changes to current law by extending protection to ranges built after 1991 and to those located in counties with no ordinance-making authority. Even Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) acknowledged the importance of keeping such facilities open for safe training and recreational purposes: he made the motion to report this bill out of the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee!
- HB 2784 by Rep. Bill Carter (R-Fort Worth) & Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine) will improve the way DPS collects and maintains statistics on concealed handgun license holders by focusing on reporting convictions of concealed handgun licensees for violent offenses, weapons offenses and violations of the concealed carry law, rather than non-violent, non-weapons-related offenses. DPS will also be required to provide an annual comparison of crime conviction rates among concealed handgun licensees versus the adult population in general, providing an improved, consistent and more meaningful methodology of record keeping to measure trends over time and assess the success or failure of the state`s carry law.
- SB 430, a bill dealing generally with school safety, will require visiting resource officers in public elementary schools to offer to teach NRA`s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program at least once a year, thanks to an amendment added to the bill in the House by Rep. Manny Najera (D-El Paso). Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) carried HB 2656 with similar language that remained stuck in committee, and he identified SB 430 as a perfect vehicle for his House bill late in the session. Thanks also go out to Sen. Florence Shapiro, the original sponsor of SB 430, who agreed to accept Rep. Najera`s Eddie Eagle amendment to her bill.
To be sure, new challenges arose this session, with most firearm-related bills in the House being referred to a new, apparently less pro-Second Amendment committee: Criminal Jurisprudence. Many thanks to the four reliable "NO" votes on that committee concerning legislation restricting gun shows: Rep. Rick Green (R-Dripping Springs), Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin), Rep. John Shields (R-San Antonio) and Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena). Also, we`d like to thank the chairman of that committee, Rep. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen). Although his gun show bill was the only piece of anti-gun legislation to be reported out of his committee (it failed to get set for floor action by the House Calendars Committee), he always dealt with us and our supporters in a very fair, straightforward manner.
An attempt to amend gun show legislation onto a related bill failed miserably in the Senate. SB 819, carried by Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria), Sen. David Bernsen (D-Beaumont) & Sen. Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Houston) at the request of pro-gun former Sen. Jerry Patterson, clarified that the Texas Legislature has the exclusive authority to regulate the carrying of concealed handguns. This bill was aimed at preempting arbitrary regulations imposed on license holders by cities, counties and state agencies that are outside the scope and intent of Texas` "Right To Carry" law.
During the debate on SB 819, Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) offered an amendment to allow cities and counties to require criminal records checks on all handgun sales at gun shows. This amendment was opposed by the bill`s authors and by NRA & TSRA. West`s amendment failed on a resounding 21-7 vote. You were notified of how your Senators voted in an email alert posted back on 05/01.
SB 819 ultimately passed the Senate and was quickly reported out of Chairman Bob Turner`s (D-Voss) House Public Safety Committee. But time and legislative deadlines began catching up with the measure. In a last minute effort to revive the issue, Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine) amended language similar to that found in SB 819 to a bill dealing with limiting the possession of firearms at an execution: HB 1925 by Rep. Pat Haggerty (R-El Paso). However, House rules dictated that the Senate amendment was not germane to HB 1925 and, therefore, a conference committee was forced to strip Sen. Staples` amendment off the bill. This issue will require further study and groundwork prior to the 2003 legislative session, but there appears to be strong support in both chambers for more uniformity and clarity in this portion of the "Right To Carry" law.
Gun owners also need to remember those legislators who introduced or sponsored bills this session to improve Texas` "Right To Carry" law and to reform other gun laws on the books, including Rep. Dan Ellis (D-Livingston), Rep. Suzanna Hupp (R-Lampasas), Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock), Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville), Rep. Bob Turner (D-Voss) and Sen. David Bernsen (D-Beaumont.) You can review the legislation they sponsored at www.house.state.tx.us. Be aware that very few bills which are introduced actually pass during any particular legislative session. But as you can see, this list demonstrates that we have strong, pro-Second Amendment support in BOTH political parties.
Perhaps the best example of this lies with House Calendars Committee Chairman Barry Telford (D-Dekalb), whose committee is charged with controlling the flow of bills to the House floor. In this position, Chairman Telford has been a vigilant watchdog for the rights of law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen and deserves our collective gratitude.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to place phone calls, send emails or write letters to your state lawmakers this year. Special thanks to those of you that attended committee hearings held in Austin. Your grassroots interest and participation definitely makes a difference, as you can see by the outcome of this legislative session!