The leader of a pro-gun control group made several statements that were easily proven to be false during her testimony before the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee last Thursday, when she joined hundreds of other members of the public who came to the Texas Capitol to share their opinions about two bills under consideration by the committee, SB 11, the “campus carry” bill, and SB 17, the “open carry” bill. As Breitbart Texas reported, both bills passed the committee and are headed to the Senate for consideration.
Kelly Burke, the president of the Texas chapter of “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,” a group underwritten by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg that advocates for stricter gun regulations, testified near the end of the day in opposition to both SB 11 and SB 17.
Both bills operate by expanding the state’s system for concealed handgun licenses (CHLs), which allows those who are over 21 years of age (or qualified military veterans), pass a criminal background check, and complete safety and proficiency training, to carry concealed handguns.
SB 11 would allow those who have qualified for a CHL to also carry their gun inside buildings on college campuses. Currently, CHL holders may carry on campus, but cannot bring their weapons inside a building. Texas law also allows the open carry of long guns like shotguns and rifles, and SB 17 would expand that to allow open carry of handguns by CHL holders.
Accordingly, the issue of whether CHL holders tend to be safe and law-abiding is relevant for lawmakers to consider as they debate passing these bills. In her testimony, Burke claimed, “we do not know, about how, quote, responsible CHL holders are, because that data set is not available and is completely locked down. Any statements about how, quote, responsible and law-abiding CHL holders are is completely anecdotal and therefore conjecture.”
The Bearing Arms blog called these comments by Burke a “bold-faced lie,” and her comments were wholly incorrect. The degree to which Burke knew her statements were incorrect is not clear, but by making the affirmative representation that the data was “completely locked down,” she implies that she did attempt to get the data but someone denied her access. However, the data on crimes committed by Texas CHL holders is not only available as a public record, it has been posted online for years and is readily found on the first page of Google search results for a variety of relevant search terms.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has posted the conviction rates for CHL holders as compared to the general Texas population on their website, dating all the way back to 1996. For purposes of these reports, DPS does not consider the conviction final until a year after the conviction, to allow time for appeals, and generates the reports every year with the data from two years ago to allow for this time period. To provide a more accurate comparison, DPS only includes convictions by those who are age 21 or older, to match the minimum age for a CHL.
The most recent report available is from 2012, and it shows that for the vast majority of crimes in Texas during that year, none or almost none of the convictions were of CHL holders. That year, there were a total of 63,272 convictions statewide, of which 120, or 0.1897% were of CHL holders.
Breitbart Texas reviewed the reports posted by DPS, and during the entire period from 1996 until 2012, the percentage of convictions committed by CHL holders never even reached one-half of one percent. As National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke wrote, “No wonder [Moms Demand Action] wanted to pretend it didn’t exist.”
Burke’s misrepresentation would not have been likely to fool the Senators on the State Affairs Committee. Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), who authored SB 11 and co-sponsored SB 17, mentioned at the very beginning of the committee hearing that CHL holders “were the most law-abiding segment of the state,” and other Senators made reference to the DPS statistics in their remarks.
Breitbart Texas reached out to Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), another committee member who co-authored SB 11 and co-sponsored SB 17, for comment. Creighton told Breitbart Texas that he had reviewed the DPS data and said that he was “content” about the trustworthiness of CHL holders after seeing “how law-abiding Texas CHL holders have been over the last two decades.”
Texas CHL holders are “law abiding good actors who are vetted through that licensure process” deserve to have the legislature protect their Second Amendment rights, said Creighton, who called his main reason for supporting these bills, that they “first and foremost strengthened” the Second Amendment protections for Texans. Legislators take an oath to defend the Texas Constitution, explained Creighton, and there is “no greater responsibility that we have [as legislators] than defending the Constitution and upholding our oath.”
Creighton also told Breitbart Texas that despite the disagreement with opponents to the bill, he enjoyed hearing the public testimony and found the hearing process to be “so valuable.”
“I really do listen and consider every witness and their testimony so much of it is compelling and interesting…the great experience that they bring” to share with the committee, said Creighton, adding that he “respected” the “heartfelt testimony” of many opponents to the bills, but ultimately did not find it persuasive.
“Most of that testimony, to me, was based on a ‘feeling’ [by the opponents to the bills],” said Creighton, “a prevailing sentiment, that guns cause anxiety and enhance a stressful environment, and therefore we should not have them.”
“I would contend the opposite viewpoint, that bad actors are going to appear in these environments,” he continued, citing Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the Colorado movie theater shooting, “and to disarm citizens…is the wrong way to go,” depriving them the right to defend themselves against a bad actor who will get a gun regardless.
Both SB 11 and SB 17 now head to the full Senate for debate, where it is expected to reach the floor for a vote and pass, especially now that only 19 Senators are needed to bring a bill to a vote under the new rules passed by the Senate this year.
Many expect the real hurdle to be in the House. Creighton told Breitbart Texas that he was encouraged that State Rep. Larry Phillips, the author of the House version of SB 11, already had “70 co-authors and climbing,” with 76 votes needed to pass. A campus carry bill was passed in the House during last session, when Creighton was a State Representative himself, and he said that would make it easier to pass again, since the issues had already been vetted by the House with full hearings and a floor debate. The open carry bill, having not been heard in the House before, will be harder to predict.
Breitbart Texas will continue to follow the debate on these bills in both chambers of the Texas Legislature.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.