Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Texas Second Amendment Two-Step Update

As Texas's 83rd Legislative Session wanes, there is a rush to finalize votes on Second Amendment and gun rights issues.

Some of these Second Amendment related bills recently passed both houses of the Texas Congress during a special Saturday session. They are headed for Governor Perry's desk for signature and execution. Others are still shuffling between the houses as the Senate or House amend the bills or clarify their language.

Second Amendment: Texas Concealed Carry Clarified

On Memorial Day 2013, the legislature sent the finalized, enrolled version of HB 3142 to the Governor. HB 3142 simplifies and clarifies much of Texas's concealed carry code. The bill basically strips segments of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code and other associated laws. Under the current code, the law can be interpreted to restrict concealed carry licenses to apply only to a select class of handgun the citizen qualified with when applying for the license. The new code, among other things, changes the language to read that qualifying with any size, caliber, or class of handgun satisfies the qualification requirement.

In other words, if the applicant qualified with a sub-compact 9mm, they can upgrade to a compact .45 caliber if they wish without having to re-qualify.

 SECTION 5.  Section 411.177(a), Government Code, is amended to read as follows: 
       (a)  The department shall issue a license to carry a concealed handgun to an applicant if the applicant meets all the eligibility requirements and submits all the application materials.  [The department may issue a license to carry handguns only of the categories for which the applicant has demonstrated proficiency in the form and manner required by the department.] The department shall administer the licensing procedures in good faith so that any applicant who meets all the eligibility requirements and submits all the application materials shall receive a license. The department may not deny an application on the basis of a capricious or arbitrary decision by the department.

The bill also clarifies the criteria for businesses, especially those that serve alcohol, to post notice and signs outside their premises.

SB 299 was signed by Governor Perry. SB 299 further restores Second Amendment protections to Concealed Carry License holders. It clarifies the law towards a more common-sense application. Previously, an accidental exposure or "pining" of a concealed firearm was a crime. The new law requires the presentation to be intentional and threatening in order to violate that portion of the law. 

Much of the confusing concealed carry laws could be best clarified if the state enacted "constitutional carry" laws such as the State of Arizona.

Campus Store and Transport, Still Infringes on Second Amendment?

Also over Memorial Day Weekend, the Texas 83rd Legislature passed and enrolled SB 1907. The final enrolled version of the bill as sent to Governor Perry is available here

The bill allows for concealed carry permit holders to store their firearms in their vehicles while on college campuses. It also allows for those license holders to exercise some miniscule amount of their Second Amendment protections by being allowed to bear those arms inside of their vehicles as they drive onto or from the parking areas on those campuses.

       (b)  An institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education in this state may not adopt or enforce any rule, regulation, or other provision or take any o action, including posting notice under Section 30.06,Penal Code, prohibiting or placing restrictions on the storage or transportation of a firearm or ammunition in a locked, privately owned or leased motor vehicle by a person, including a student enrolled at that institution, who holds a license to carry a concealed handgun under this subchapter and lawfully possesses the firearm or ammunition:

The perceived compromise to campus carry is still seen as a violation of Second Amendment protections. The proponents of concealed campus carry claim this "compromise" may be just lip-service that does nothing.Many advocates of "campus carry" claim this law does nothing to enable law-abiding citizens to defend themselves on college campuses. Most college campuses are "gun free zones". They are also havens for rapists and those who commit other violent crimes, who often do so with impunity.

Restoring The Second Amendment on College Campuses

HB 972, "Campus Carry" is still being debated in the State Senate. The bill has been slightly amended. It has passed favorably through the Senate committees. It is scheduled for a floor vote in the near future. HB 972 has much support among college student organizations such as Students For Concealed Carry.

Still, proponents of "Campus Carry" and restoring Second Amendment protections express perceptions that the bill does not go far enough in restoring those protections. The argument behind their reasoning is that the bill grants the administrations of those colleges too much latitude in regulating and infringing upon Second Amendment protections.

However, in the case of private universities, the owners still have their individual properties rights. They are still sovereign over the policies on their property as long as they do not violate higher laws. In that vein, the bill may be the best compromise short of a state-wide protection of "Constitutional Carry".

Second Amendment To Protect Students

The Texas legislature has also passed the controversial bills that may allow educators and administrators in public, charter, and private schools to be armed in order to defend themselves and the students.

SB 17, which extends Second Amendment protections to educators, was passed, enrolled, and forwarded to the Governor's desk for signature over the Memorial Day Weekend. The bill will allow schools that do not have armed police stationed in the schools to arm employees. The educators or administrators must already hold a concealed carry license and must undergo additional training in order to qualify for the special license.

On Wednesday May 22, 2013, the 83rd Legislature passed, enrolled, and forwarded SB 1857 to the Governor. SB 1857 directs the Department of Public Safety to establish a program to train and certify instructors who can train and certify those educational workers. The bill further stipulates the curricula both the instructors and the applicants must meet.

Opponents of the bill tend to pull on heart-strings, offering only an emotional argument that "guns don't belong in schools". Those opponents usually fail to address that for decades, many schools has marksmanship teams and kept working .22 rifles locked in storage rooms for that purpose. In those days, the school shootings these opponents fear were unheard of.

Texas Still Violates Second Amendment

The bill that would partially restore Constitutional Carry has yet to be considered by its respective committees. HB 1194 was left "pending in committee" on March 14, 2013. It was never allowed its votes. Citizens are denied the Second Amendment protection to bear arms without infringement. The bill would have allowed concealed carry license holders to openly carry their firearms, without having to conceal them. While even that law infringes upon the constitutional right to bear, it would have been a monumental step towards restoring Second Amendment rights.