AUSTIN, Texas — Legislation to allow open carry by people licensed to carry concealed handguns and the authorization to carry concealed handguns on college campuses moved closer to passage after testimony was heard in a Texas House committee. Homeland Security and Public Safety Chairman Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) held two sessions for public testimony on Tuesday.
Chairman Phillips opened the meeting by laying out his bill (HB 910) to allow open carry of handguns by people who have obtained concealed handgun licenses. He predicted that most licensed gun owners will continue to carry concealed but that they should be allowed open carry when they want to.
Chairman Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement Committee chairman, laid out his bill (HB 937) to allow concealed carry on the campuses of colleges and universities. Fletcher, a retired Houston police officer, cited safety concerns for students, faculty and employees who must often walk through dark parking lots late in the evening. He also discussed the need for people to defend themselves in other dangerous situations that happen on campus.
Testimony was held from members of the public and from law enforcement officials. Breitbart Texas was present for the hearing and witnessed all of the testimony that was offered for and against the two bills. Testimony was limited to two minutes per person because of the large numbers of people wishing to speak. Chairman Phillips ran out of time during the morning session and had to temporarily adjourn the meeting so that members could attend the House session where the House passed HB 11 pertaining to increasing penalties and law enforcement efforts related to human trafficking.
Following the House session, Chairman Phillips reconvened the committee meeting and continued hearing testimony until every person who wished to speak was able to do so.
Testimony was heard from supporters of the bills including representatives of the National Rifle Association, the Texas State Rifle Association, the Republican Party of Texas, Open Carry Texas, former state representatives, Open Carry Texas, Texans for Firearms Freedom and dozens of people speaking on their own behalf.
Opposing testimony came from groups like Moms Demand Action, the League of Women Voters, Victims of Campus Violence and two assistant police chiefs.
College students and professors spoke both for and against the Campus Carry bill.
Chairman Phillips responded to claims that campus police and city police chiefs oppose the bills by reminding people that those police officials are employed by mayors and college officials who are opposed to the bills. He also reminded people that most law enforcement officials were against the original concealed carry laws and later found that most of their fears never came to reality.
At the end of the day, the bills were left pending for a vote to be held later this month. Phillips told Breitbart Texas he wants to see the final language in the Senate open carry bill (SB 17), which saw final passage in the Senate on Tuesday, and the Senate campus carry bill (SB 11) which is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Wednesday. He said he wants to see the amended language of the open carry bill to see if the amendments that were adopted by the Senate can be incorporated into his House version to simplify the passage process.
Former Representative Susanna Huff testified in support of the open carry bill and the campus carry bill. Huff was a victim of a mass casualty shooting at Luby’s where her pareents were killed and she was unable to defend them and herself because of laws which prohibited her from carrying a firearm for self defense. Former State Rep. George Lavender who authored a similar open carry bill in the 2013 legislative session was also on-hand to show his support. Representatives Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) and Dan Flynn (R-Canton) were also on-hand to show support for the bills.
Phillips expects bipartisan support for his open carry bill. The Senate version passed along a strict party-line vote. He said his committee will vote on the bills in about two weeks.
Bob Price is a senior political writer for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.