Pro- & Anti-Gun Bills to be Heard in Texas Senate & House Committees
On Monday, April 24, the Senate State Affairs Committee will hear Senate Bill 349 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). SB 349 clarifies the definition of a “school activity” in the Penal Code so that it applies to activities taking place on the grounds of, or in buildings owned by and under the control of, a school or postsecondary educational institution. Without this important clarification, the statute could be interpreted to mean that any location where students are present outside of school grounds or school buildings (i.e., any field trip – including to the Capitol) could turn that location into a “school-sponsored activity” and trigger a firearm prohibition in the area. Please contact members of the committee today and urge them to SUPPORT SB 349.
On Tuesday, April 25, the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety will hear House Bill 968 by Rep. Will Metcalf (R-Conroe), the companion bill to SB 349, and House Bill 981 by Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie), which exempts certain persons who provide security services on a volunteer basis at places of worship – including License To Carry holders approved by church leadership – from the requirements of the Private Security Act and restrictions on firearms possession in the Penal Code. Be sure to call and email committee members and ask them to SUPPORT HB 968 and HB 981.
On Tuesday, this same House committee will also hold public hearings at 8:00 am in Room E2.014 of the State Capitol on a number of NRA-opposed measures. Please contact members of the committee and urge them to OPPOSE HB 1229, HB 2034 and HB 3340. If you attend the hearing to speak against any of these bills, you’ll need to sign up in opposition to them using one of the electronic kiosks located in the hall behind the committee room. You can elect to provide verbal or written testimony, or register against the measures without choosing to speak.
House Bill 1229 by Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) prohibits the transfer of a firearm to a person the actor knows to be listed in the terrorist screening database maintained by the FBI. It is unclear how this would work, since federal firearm licensed dealers (FFLs) cannot access the list, nor can private sellers who this bill would apply to as well. Persons may be added to the watchlist without being charged or convicted of any crimes, and those on the list are never notified if, how, or why they are on the list. There is no process in place to have your name removed from the list, and mistaken identities are common. In every other case in which a person is deprived of their firearm rights, they are afforded a judicial proceeding. Due process of the law must be followed before depriving anyone of their constitutional rights.
House Bill 2034 also by Rep. Blanco, prohibits the sale of a firearm to a person in this state “by means of the internet” unless the sale is to, or is conducted through an FFL. It is unclear what this bill hopes to accomplish. Under current law, firearms which are actually sold online already must be shipped to an FFL for processing and delivery. Internet gun sales don’t work like Amazon.com – you don’t just point, click, pay and a firearm shows up on your doorstep. The vague language in the above quotes could mean that the bill applies the FFL requirement to any firearm transfers between private individuals which result from online advertising or even email communications. So if your gun club website, sportsmen’s organization blog or concealed carry discussion forum has a place where members advertise firearms for sale to one another, this bill could require those transfers be conducted through an FFL, which would involve extensive federal paperwork, records check and payment of an undetermined fee. This measure appears to be a first step toward regulating all private firearm transfers.
House Bill 3340 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) requires DPS-approved License To Carry instructors to be qualified to instruct students in suicide prevention. Instructors are not mental health professionals and they are already required by statute to teach safe storage practices to prevent access to firearms by any unauthorized users. The measure requires DPS to include information on their website on firearms and suicide, something which the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, a far more appropriate agency for this task, already does (view http://www.mentalhealthtx.org.) It also encourages DPS to disseminate this information with FFLs, shooting range owners and gun show promoters. We share Rep. Thompson’s desire to reduce suicide rates in Texas through education. But the tone of the message and the manner in which it is delivered to the gun community should be vetted by firearm experts and mental health professionals – not a state anti-gun organization pushing this legislation – in order for it to be effective and not simply become another platform for more gun control.