Following more than five hours of debate which was interrupted for several points of order discussions and fights over parliamentary procedure, HB 910 passed its initial vote on the floor of the Texas House by a vote of 96-35. The bill will allow Texans who possess a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) to openly carry a handgun in a shoulder or belt holster. Eighteen amendments were offered to the bill by both Republicans and Democrats but only one amendment was passed.
In laying out the bill, Representative Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), the bill’s author, said “It’s time to take this next step.” Phillips told House members the bill removes the word concealed from current law that requires CHL holders to carry handguns concealed. He said private property rights are protected because businesses can choose to allow or not allow concealed or open carry of handguns by placing standardized signs on the entrances to their businesses. The bill does not expand the locations where CHL holders can carry sidearms.
The bill was amended in committee to match the language in Senate Bill 17 which passed the Texas Senate in March. Those amendments moved the effective date of the law, should it be finally passed and signed into law by the Governor, to January 1, 2016. It also added language to prohibit open carry on college campuses should the Campus Carry Bill pass into law.
Much of the debate over amendments and parliamentary procedure was entered into written record in the House Journal (attached below).
The only amendment to pass during the floor debate was Amendment 18 offered by Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler). The approved amendment changes the misdemeanor level for the offense of accidentally carrying a concealed handgun into a business that is properly displaying a 30.06 sign that prohibits concealed carry. The amendment changes the offense from a Class A to a Class C misdemeanor. The offense goes back up to a Class A misdemeanor if the CHL holder refuses to leave the premises after being asked to do so.
Representative Phillips was initially going to ask for the amendment to be tabled as he had done with many other amendments. He later withdrew his motion to table and the amendment passed 98-24.
Representative Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) offered an amendment to attach his Campus Carry Bill (HB 937) to the HB 310. HB 937 was passed out of committee earlier this month and is currently waiting in the Calendars Committee for a date to move to the House floor for a vote.
While the Amendment was considered acceptable to HB 11 author, Rep. Phillips, Fletcher decided to withdraw the amendment after much discussion with other members of Republican leadership and bill supporters. Because of the already contentious debate and parliamentary procedural attempts to block HB 910, Fletcher determined moving forward with his amendment might endanger both the open carry and campus carry bills, Breitbart Texas learned from a House staff member. The move was praised by supporters of both bills.
The amendment that came closest to being approved for a vote by the full House was Amendment 7, offered by State Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg). The amendment would have added language to the current CHL laws allowing the carry of a knife of any style or length that is considered illegal to be carried by a non-CHL holder. Canales said that if we allow someone to carry a gun, certainly we should allow them to carry a knife. Rep. Phillips moved that the amendment be tabled because other bills will be following that will address this issue more thoroughly. The motion to table prevailed but only by a 19 vote margin of 72-53.
The most contentious debate came not from Democrats, but from Republican Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford). Stickland was dismayed that he was not allowed to offer his amendment that would provide for what is called “Constitutional Carry.” This is the practice of many states where a person can carry openly or concealed, with or without a license. Stickland’s amendment was declared non-germane by the House Speaker and the parliamentarian.
Stickland went on a “parliamentary inquiry” barrage of questions that went on for nearly twenty minutes. Stickland asked that the discussion be added to the House Journal and it is included in the attachment below beginning on page 52.
Other amendments that were tabled included requirements for various retention style holsters, an option to allow cities with a population of more than 750,000 to opt out of the open carry law, a requirement for CHL holders to openly display their license, a requirement for liability insurance, changes in signage requirements, limits on ammunition capacity and number of magazines, various changes to reciprocity agreements, an option for school board members to be allowed to carry a handgun and an issue dealing with issues related to the arrival of a school bus where a person is already present with a firearm.
During his closing on the bill, Phillips was again challenged by Stickland who asked if Chairman Phillips would allow his bill to get a hearing in committee.
“Representative Phillips, are you aware that someone else has filed a bill that they care about, that 100,000 Texans have signed a petition for, held six rallies at this Capitol and have been lobbying the legislature for a hearing in your committee for months?” Stickland asked.
Phillips told Stickland that he had only himself and his supporters to blame for the status of his bill. “The fate of your bill was cast when the Senate decided it was not going to take up constitutional carry,” he said. “And in how you treated other members of this chamber… the way those who support your bill have treated members of this house, their families, and their staff.”
Phillips closed on his bill by saying, “This bill goes too far for some and not far enough for others, but I think it’s a good start to show that we as Texans can be respectful and still protect ourselves.”
In opposition, Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), who is currently running to become Houston’s next mayor, had but one word to say – “Really?”
Representative Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) said he was initially leaning in the direction of support more gun rights for Texans. But, after several incidents involving supporters of open carry legislation where Nevarez was forced to have a security detail because of threats, he now stands in opposition.
“We seem to live in this fantasy world of protecting second amendment rights at all costs…what we have here is a descent down a path that we can’t come back from,” Nevarez explained. “I’m going to vote against anger, I’m going to vote against hate, and I’m going to vote against the deterioration of our state into something that resembles — I don’t know.”
Terry Holcomb, Sr., executive director of Texas Carry, worked closely with Phillips and other representatives to get this bill passed. Before this session, open carry legislation never made it out of either body of the legislature. This session will see the passage by both houses of the legislature of some form of open carry legislation. “We are seeing historic progress in Texas,” Holcomb said.
The bill is expected to be passed in final form sometime next week. It will then have to be reconciled with Senate Bill 17 before it can move forward to Governor Abbott who has indicated he will sign the bill.
This article has been updated.