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Texas - SB 501 Passes Senate...But Hold Your Applause, Please!

Saturday, April 5, 2003

This week, the Texas Senate passed SB 501, Sen. Ken Armbrister`s (D-Victoria) bill that originally sought to prohibit localities from using a loophole in the state`s criminal trespass law to post signs banning concealed handgun licensees (CHLs) from entering public buildings. But an amendment by the bill`s main opponent, Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant), turned the measure on its head! As introduced, SB 501 re-asserted the authority of the Legislature to regulate where CHLs can lawfully carry, and it provided uniformity and consistency in Texas`s Right To Carry law for CHL instructors, licensees, and law enforcement. As passed by the Senate, however, SB 501 now allows the state, or any city or county, to post signs according to 30.06 of the Penal Code and ban license holders from entering buildings under their control. Those entities currently have that power only because of an Attorney General opinion that highlighted a loophole in the criminal trespass law. SB 501, as passed by the Senate, would now codify that authority in state law!
The debate on SB 501 could only be described as bizarre and confusing, at times. But in the end, Ratliff and his friends from the Texas Municipal League were successful in duping Senators into believing that they were voting for uniformity and consistency (as far as posting requirements go!) with his amendment, rather than voting to strip away legislative authority to regulate where CHLs can lawfully carry.

The fight is not over! Now, it`s up to the Texas House to begin work on cleaning up SB 501. We`ll see which chamber is more interested in preserving legislative authority, which chamber is more interested in listening to the facts on this issue, and which chamber has more faith in the more than 220,000 CHLs in the State of Texas.

In the meantime, please call your Senator and the Lt. Governor and tell them what you think about the Ratliff Amendment to SB 501. Use the "Write Your Legislators" box above for contact information for your Senator and the Lt. Governor.

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