The Texas Senate gave final passage to House Bill 910, the bill that would allow concealed carry license holders to openly carry a handgun. The bill was passed out of the Senate during a late night Memorial Day weekend session with a vote of 20-11. Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) was the lone Republican voting against the bill.
The debate on the bill lasted more than six hours. The marathon debate centered mostly around an amendment by Senator Donald Huffines (R-Dallas) that would restore the “Dutton Amendment” that was originally in the bill passed by the House. The amendment was stripped from the bill during a Senate committee hearing by Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) who was carrying the bill in the Senate.
The amendment would prohibit a police officer from stopping a person who was openly carrying a handgun to ask them if they have a license. The officer would have to have some other reason or suspicion to make the stop and the inquiry.
Senator Huffman objected to this amendment from Sen. Huffines. Citing officer safety and police concerns, Huffman offered an amendment to Huffines’ amendment that would increase the penalty for a non-licensed person to openly carry a handgun. The penalty would have increased from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class II felony. Huffman said this would be a reasonable deterrent to keep non-licensed people from openly carrying a handgun. Her amendment to the amendment was tabled by a wide margin as Democrats voted with Republicans to defeat her measure.
The Huffines amendment passed by a vote of 19-12. Eight Republicans joined with four Democrats in voting against the amendment. The Republicans who voted no were Senators Campbell, Estes, Fraser, Huffman, Nelson, Nichols, Seliger and L. Taylor.
Huffman later offered another amendment to the bill to change the penalty to a state jail felony. This amendment was also tabled.
Senator Van Taylor (R-Plano) asked whether the Huffines amendment would prevent an officer from making a consensual inquiry about the license status of a person openly carrying a handgun. The question, and the answer that it would not, was entered into the record.
In the category of the strange bedfellows of politics, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) supported the Huffines amendment and even voted for passage of the bill. “I have a long history of opposing open carry legislation and a strong record of supporting sensible reforms to reduce gun violence and keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said Senator Ellis in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “But if open carry is going to become law, law enforcement shouldn’t be able to circumvent constitutional rights and detain someone solely because they are open carrying in compliance with the law.”
Ellis promised to be back on the loyal opposition side tomorrow. He quipped earlier about worrying about whether his constituents would think he was “drinking the tea” of his colleagues.
In a similar vein, a photo of Senator Huffines being assisted by Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) during the debates was being passed around the Senate via Twitter:
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) May 23, 2015
At the end of a long debate the bill passed on to Third Reading. The Senate then waived the 3-Day Constitutional Rule and voted final passage by a vote of 20-11. Voting against the bill were Senators Garcia, Hinojosa, Huffman, Lucio, Rodriguez, Uresti, Watson, West, Whitmire and Zaffirini. Following the vote, there was confusion about where the bill went from there.
Some thought because the amendment was removed and re-inserted, the bill would go straight on to the Governor for signature. Other’s thought it might have to go back to the House for concurrence. Breitbart Texas learned the Senate general counsel confirmed that the bill will have to go back to the House for a concurrence vote. If the House approves the Senate changes it will go on to Governor Abbott for signature. If the House does not concur, a conference committee will have to resolve the difference between the two versions of HB 910.
One source in the Senate said there could be as little as a three word difference between the versions.
Keith Elkins, Communications Director for the Lt. Governor told Breitbart Texas the Senate will work with the House tomorrow to try and resolve the different versions and get concurrence. Governor Abbott has consistently said he would sign whatever open carry bill came to his desk. However, a Friday evening tweet by the Governor made some wonder if he was signaling a possible veto of the bill if it contained the Dutton/Huffines amendment.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 23, 2015
The tweet came about the same time as debate on the amendment was coming to a close.
“More than two months ago, the Texas Senate approved similar legislation enhancing Second Amendment freedoms on a vote of 20-10,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “With time running out on this legislative session, the Senate has once again stood up for the Second Amendment to ensure law-abiding licensed Texans have the right to open carry.
“While the Senate considered attaching ‘campus carry’ to this bill, Speaker Joe Straus has assured the Texas Senate that the House will approve a ‘campus carry’ bill in time to be approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor to become law before time runs out on the 84th Legislative Session,” concluded Patrick.
Breitbart Texas will provide more information as it becomes available.
Lana Shadwick contributed to this article. Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2