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)
Rep. Tom Uher, Vice-Chairman (D-Bay City)
Rep. Joe Crabb (R-Kingwood)
* Rep. Crabb did not sign the interim report.
Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Dickinson)
*Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin)
* 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)
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)
House Speaker Pete Laney (D-Hale Center)
Senator David Cain (D-Dallas)
Representative Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas)
* 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)
Michael Williams, Chairman of Texas Railroad Commission (R)
Senator Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria)
Senator Buster Brown (R-Lake Jackson)
Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano)
Representative Carl Isett (R-Lubbock)
Representative Bob Turner (D-Voss)
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!