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Texas - Proposal to Limit Access of Concealed Handgun License Holders

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

There have been recent reports in the media concerning limiting the access of trained, law-abiding concealed handgun license holders to the State Capitol and surrounding buildings of the capitol complex in light of the September 11 bombings and tragedy. There has been some confusion on the genesis of this proposal and whether, in fact, any number of task forces or commissions have the authority or interest in pursuing such restrictions. We hope this email will help clear up at least some of those issues.

We have received assurances from the Governor`s office that the issue of concealed handgun license holders` access to the capitol is not the primary focus of the Governor`s recently-appointed Homeland Security Task Force. The mission of the group is to examine issues relating to, and make recommendations for improving, the security of the state, not the Capitol Building specifically.

In spite of press reports aimed at portraying the governor as favorable to imposing such restrictions, his representatives pointed out to us that Perry has a strong history of support for our Second Amendment rights and produced a quote from the October 15, 2001 issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in which his spokesperson reiterated, "The governor supports the current concealed handgun law."

Current law does not prohibit concealed handgun licensees from carrying a handgun for personal protection inside the capitol building. In fact, when the Legislature debated the concealed handgun license law in 1995, various versions of amendments to limit carrying in state buildings were repeatedly tabled. However, a license holder does commit an offense if he or she intentionally , knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun at any meeting of a governmental entity if he or she was given effective notice under the state`s trespass law that carrying was unlawful (in this case, notice is a verbal warning or a sign posted in accordance with Section 30.06 of the Penal Code.)

The impetus for discussion of a proposal to limit access to the Capitol by license holders appears to be a 2000 interim study conducted by the Texas House General Investigating Committee on security for the Capitol and its surrounding structures. The panel found what it considered to be flaws in the security and safety plans for these buildings, even though the Capitol Police reported that "workplace violence was not a major problem" and that "the Capitol Police statistical report shows no discernable pattern of workplace violence or crime in the capitol complex."

According to statistics provided by the Capitol Police, there were no investigations reported for crimes involving the unlawfully carrying of a weapon from 1995-1997, and six incidents each were reported in 1998 and 1999. However, there was no indication in the report as to whether the weapon carried was, in fact, a handgun, or whether the persons involved were, in fact, license holders.

In spite of these findings (or lack thereof), the panel raised concerns about access to the Capitol by concealed handgun license holders. The Committee`s 2000 interim report recommended that "The Public Safety Commission and the State Preservation Board should coordinate to post notice in accordance with 30.06, Texas Penal Code to prohibit the carrying of licensed concealed handguns in the Capitol Building and Extension." This prohibition would, ostensibly, extend to the general public as well as any legislators or staff members who possess valid concealed handgun licenses.

Members of the Texas House General Investigating Committee who signed that report and its recommendations are listed below:

Rep. Pete Gallego, Chairman (D-Alpine)
512-463-0566 Capitol
915-837-7383 District
pete.gallego@house.state.tx.us
Rep. Tom Uher, Vice-Chairman (D-Bay City)
512-463-0724 Capitol
979-245-9093 District
tom.uher@house.state.tx.us
Rep. Joe Crabb (R-Kingwood)
512-463-0520 District
281-359-1270 Capitol
joe.crabb@house.state.tx.us
* Rep. Crabb did not sign the interim report.
Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Dickinson)
512-463-0502 Capitol
281-534-4492 District
craig.eiland@house.state.tx.us
*Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin)
512-463-0652
terry.keel@house.state.tx.us

* Rep. Keel, to his credit, refused to sign on to the recommendations of the committee as they related to banning concealed handgun license holders from the Capitol. He sent a letter dated October 6, 2000, to Chairman Gallego which stated, "Given that we do not screen the public for weapons, it serves no purpose to affirmatively seek to prohibit entry of concealed weapons on those citizens statistically least likely to offend with them -- those that have passed background checks, taken proficiency courses, and had issued a license to carry." Please be sure to thank him for his support.

So, without evidence of a problem existing under current law, the media and -- possibly -- some members of the General Investigating Committee appear to be trying to breathe new life into a proposal that had little political support prior to September 11. Concerned members and license holders need to remain vigilant and can take the following actions:

* Contact pro-Second Amendment members of the State Preservation Board, thank them for their past support, and urge them to oppose limiting access to the State Capitol and surrounding buildings by trained, law-abiding concealed handgun license holders. The board has the authority to post signs giving such notice in the capitol and surrounding structures in accordance with the concealed handgun license law and with Section 30.06 of the Penal Code.

Governor Rick Perry (R)
512-463-2000
800-252-9600 (Citizens` Opinion Hotline)
* you may email the governor from his website: www.governor.state.tx.us
Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant)
512-463-0001 Capitol
903-572-1887 District
nick.voinis@ltgov.state.tx.us
House Speaker Pete Laney (D-Hale Center)
512-463-3000 Capitol
806-839-2478 District
pete.laney@house.state.tx.us
Senator David Cain (D-Dallas)
512-463-0102 Capitol
214-826-0160 District
david.cain@senate.state.tx.us
Representative Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas)
512-463-0454 Capitol
214-503-1900 District
tony.goolsby@house.state.tx.us

* Contact pro-Second Amendment members of the Homeland Security Task Force, thank them for their past support, and urge them to oppose limiting access to the State Capitol and surrounding buildings by law-abiding, trained concealed handgun license holders. This proposal could be brought up for discussion by a member of the Homeland Security Task Force or, as we understand it, anyone in the general public or the Legislature, at a future meeting.

David Dewhurst, Texas Land Commissioner (R)
512-463-5256
david.dewhurst@glo.state.tx.us
Michael Williams, Chairman of Texas Railroad Commission (R)
512-463-7144
michael.williams@rrc.state.tx.us
Senator Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria)
512-463-0118 Capitol
361-572-8061 District
mike.sizemore@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Buster Brown (R-Lake Jackson)
512-463-0117 Capitol
979-297-5261 District
jene.lanclos@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano)
512-463-0108 District
972-385-9876 Capitol
kimberly.thompson@senate.state.tx.us
Representative Carl Isett (R-Lubbock)
512-463-0676 District
806-763-2366 Capitol
carl.isett@house.state.tx.us
Representative Bob Turner (D-Voss)
512-463-0644
915-625-3596
bob.turner@house.state.tx.us

Even in this time of heightened security and concern, the positive track record of license holders should speak for itself and common sense should be permitted to prevail. Please keep your communications with the two groups listed below concise and respectful. We`ll keep you posted!

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.