Texas lobbyists flock to gun ranges

Some call it the lobbyist loophole. When metal detectors went in at the Texas Capitol entrances, people started packing. With a concealed handgun license , they walk right through a separate line.

“Imagine that you work in an airport, but you have to go in and out of the airport all day long,” said Bill Miller, a veteran lobbyist .

During the legislative session, Miller said he enters the building four or five times a day. Mix that with the long lines of tourists, and he could not wait to try out the new rule.

“Everybody in our organization and most of the people I know who are registered lobbyists are getting concealed handgun licenses,” he said.

With a minimum of 10 hours on a shooting range, a high enough score, and passing a written test and a criminal background check, you can obtain a license.

Places like Lone Star Gun Range near Lockhart have raked in new business from the Capitol. Instructors have seen nearly 100 lobbyists alone in the last two months.

After entering the Capitol in January, a gunman opened fire on the front steps. No one was hurt, but it prompted the metal detectors and the new rule. The suspect had no concealed handgun license.

“If they are in a situation where they are confronted with an attacker, they have education,” said Joseph Billingsley, a Lone Star instructor. “With education, it makes citizens stronger.”

Lobbyists with loaded guns might mean extra security, but Miller doubted everyone will leave the lines behind. Of the 1,400 registered lobbyists registered in the state, he predicted only 300 or 400 will get a license, and many of those probably will not carry a gun, including him.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials at the Capitol said the loophole might not make things faster, because they have to check every concealed handgun license on a computer database before letting people through. State officials and their staff are not required to carry the license or wait in line.