House Halts Attempt to Expand Lawmakers' Gun Rights

Many self-proclaimed gun enthusiasts in the Texas House aren't ready to expand their own gun rights if they can't do the same for their constituents.

Members of the lower chamber erupted on Thursday when Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, attempted to concur with an amendment the Senate tacked onto House Bill 508 that would've given lawmakers permission to carry concealed handguns where others cannot. 

"Wouldn't you agree that citizens are sick and tired of politicians passing laws then exempting themselves?" Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, asked Guillen.

HB 508, as first passed by the House, would penalize state agencies or other government entities if they refuse to acknowledge the rights of some authorities to carry concealed handguns in places where the practice is otherwise not permitted. 

The Senate amendment added on Monday by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, brings three bills back to life that never made it up for a vote in the House. Senate Bills 231 and 892 — both Carona's — would have extended this all-access pass to the attorney general and assistant attorneys general, as well as to state and federal attorneys. The third, 2011's SB 905 by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, died last session. It would have given statewide officeholders and members of the Legislature that expanded power. All three passed the Senate.

When the amended bill came back to the House on Thursday, Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, spoke in favor of the change. "We face a higher degree of risk because we're known and people might not like our opinions," he said.

Guillen reminded his colleagues of the potential dangers they face during town hall meetings at schools, courthouses and church halls where it is often prohibited to carry concealed weapons. He brought up the shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in 2011, when a gunman opened fire during a meeting with constituents at an Arizona grocery store.

"We're in the public eye with things going on throughout this country," Guillen said.

Until all Texans have the right to carry concealed handguns everywhere, Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, argued, "we cannot give ourselves these special privileges."

Guillen pulled down the bill when there was a question over whether the amendment was germane to it. House lawmakers declined to concur with the Senate version of the bill, meaning they'll negotiate the details in conference committee. 

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