The Texas House of Representatives voted against concurrence in regards to changes made to the open carry bill by the Senate. The move by the House sends the bill to a conference committee between the two bodies of the Legislature to resolve their differences in the bill.
In an unusual move, the House voted against the will of the bill’s author. Chairman Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) brought the bill (HB 910) back to the House floor and moved that the House concur with the Senate version. The Senate version was virtually identical to the House version that was passed on April 20 by a House vote of 101-42. The motion to concur failed by a vote of 63-79.
When the bill went to the Senate, the Senate Committee that heard the bill stripped out what was called the “Dutton Amendment.” The amendment put a restriction on law enforcement that would prohibit officers from making an investigatory stop on a person openly wearing a handgun simply for the fact that they were wearing a handgun. They must have some “reasonable suspicion” of a crime in order to ask if the gun owner had a license or not.
When the bill came to the Senate floor for a vote, many hours of debate ensued and an amendment was passed that put the provisions of the Dutton Amendment back into the bill, but with slightly different phrasing. Chairman Phillips reported the minor difference and said he accepted the change and moved for concurrence.
The motion failed after a lengthy debate by the House.
Law enforcement officials from across the state have been contacting lawmakers asking that the amendment be taken back out of the bill.
Some members of the House argued that since openly carrying a handgun is illegal, the police should be able to stop someone who is carrying a handgun and verify that they are licensed to do so.
Other representatives reminded lawmakers that driving a car without a license is also illegal, but police are not allowed to stop you just to enquire about whether you have a license or not.
Lawmakers also argued that the courts have already ruled that in open carry states, police cannot stop someone simply for wearing a gun. They argued that regardless of the amendment, police are not allowed to make an investigatory stop and that the amendment just clarifies the point.
Chairman Phillips told Breitbart Texas that Wednesday’s vote was not a vote against the open carry bill, but simply that members want to take the time to explore other options on resolving the concerns of law enforcement.
“We are going to work hard to get this bill passed,” Phillips said in a phone interview. “There is still a strong commitment from those who voted yes in April.”
Phillips said that if the Senate does not appoint their conference members or if the conference cannot reach a timely resolution that would allow the Senate and the House to approve the conference report, the House can discharge the conference committee and bring the bill back for another concurrence vote.
“I feel certain we have to votes to pass it when it comes back,” Phillips stated.