House Bill 1927, which would do away with the need for Texans to have a license to carry a gun in public, is on its way to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. The governor said during his State of the State address that making Texas Second Amendment sanctuary was one of his top priorities, despite the fact that polls show the majority of Texans want more gun control, not less.
However, the bill came very close to not making it through the Senate, and there were 50 amendments that came and went in the process. As it heads to becoming a law, it’s worth looking at the refining process, particularly the amendments that Democrats pushed to try and mitigate the damage of the law.
One of the most contentious issues with the bill was its general opposition from law enforcement. Cops feel that the bill makes it much harder for an officer to act when it comes to determining if an armed person has ill intent.
“Every police officer in Texas supports the right of our citizens to arm themselves for sport, hunting and protection,” said Mike Mata, the president of the Dallas Police Association, “But as with any Constitutional right there comes great responsibility. For the safety of Texas residents, we want to make sure everyone who carries a firearm is well trained, follow basic gun safety measures and understand the importance of responsible gun usage.”
For a while, it looked like this opposition might sink the bill entirely, but compromises were made. However, it wasn’t without a fight. State Rep. Ana-Marie Ramos (D-Dallas) filed an amendment that would allow peace officers to disarm people entering government buildings provided that the buildings offer secure weapon lockers for storage. The idea is particularly germane following multiple instances of armed right-wing mobs storming state capitols, but the amendment failed.
Another failure came from State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin). She wanted to make it a crime to wave guns around in public or otherwise parade them in a threatening manner. Since one could argue that the power of knowing someone is armed is largely the point of public carry, it’s not surprising the measure did not make it in. State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Kyle) had an even more reasonable amendment. She wanted it to be illegal for someone to carry while intoxicated, even if the gun was holstered. Republicans said no even though alcohol is involved in one-third of all gun violence and many suicides.
In the Senate, many more good ideas were cut down. State Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) wanted there to be free online safety courses for gun owners to take, but the measure didn’t pass. Sate Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) tried to build on a data collection section of the bill to include tracking firearm deaths, including those involving law enforcement. Good data on such incidences is still lacking, often with deliberate purpose from gun lobbyists. It did not pass either.
One of the few successes came from State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston). His amendment prohibited officers from stopping and interrogating people about having a handgun. This will hopefully cut down on the harassment of non-white Texans over worries they’re armed. It’s a very small win, but it’s something. Mostly, any attempt to lessen the Wild West feel of the bill died an ignoble death, even when it came to something as sensical as disarming drunk people in public.