After Delay, House to Take up Open Carry Bill on Friday

San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, c, confronts State Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, with a Point of Order on HB 910 that delayed the open carry gun bill on April 14, 2015.
San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, c, confronts State Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, with a Point of Order on HB 910 that delayed the open carry gun bill on April 14, 2015.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

After a technical error caused the Texas House to postpone its debate on open carry legislation Tuesday, the measure is now cleared to go back for a vote on the floor Friday.

House Bill 910, which would allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns openly in public places, had been sent back to committee after a successful procedural challenge related to the improper recording of witness testimony from state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio.

A computer glitch affecting more than 100 bills had misreported the positions of witnesses at committee hearings who were testifying on more than one bill, said state Rep. Larry Phillips, the bill's author, at an impromptu news conference explaining the delay Tuesday.

“Obviously the person that brought this was against the policy of licensed open carry,” said Phillips, R-Sherman. 

 

The bill was sent back to the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, which immediately voted it out again after addressing the error.

 

The same issue also held up House Bill 40, legislation that addresses local control over oil and gas activities. 

When open carry returns to the House floor, it is widely expected to pass — more than half of the House’s 150 members are co-sponsors of the bill.

The Senate passed its own version of the legislation in March, and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign any open carry bill that reaches his desk.

The new law would come despite the protests of many law enforcement officials, who have said that openly armed citizens would endanger both police officers and the communities they try to protect — and strain the already limited resources of local police departments.

“Right now, I’m doing good to send two deputies to a very dangerous situation,” Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia told lawmakers at a February Senate hearing. “Now when we get a call, shots fired or disturbance with guns involved, we typically think one person is creating chaos. Now we may have many people.”

Lawmakers and gun rights advocates have argued that the change is needed to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding handgun license holders.

 

“It’s time to let them take off their coats to pump their gas in August,” said Alice Tripp, a lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, at a House hearing on Phillips' bill in March. 

Texas is one of only a few states that bans open carry, though it has less restrictive firearms licensing and purchasing laws than many of the states that do allow it.

In both the House and Senate, licensed open carry proposals have also faced criticism from a vocal faction of gun rights supporters who favor repealing handgun permitting requirements altogether.

Arguing that the costs of obtaining a concealed handgun license and the restrictions the state places on applicants violate Second Amendment rights, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has championed so-called constitutional carry in the House.

Neither Stickland’s measure nor its Senate companion have received committee hearings.

Stickland, who did not return a request for comment Monday, told The Texas Tribune in February that he had vowed to amend any gun bill that came to the House floor in an effort to remove licensing requirements.

“I have promised a record vote, and we will get it,” he said.

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