An effort to let Texans openly carry their handguns throughout the state is still alive in the Texas Legislature, but its days may be numbered.
A bill to give Texas gun owners the freedom to publicly tote their guns has passed a crucial hurdle, being approved by a House committee, but that might be as far as the proposal goes this session if it doesn’t make its way onto the crowded House calendar in the next few days.
With just three weeks left in the session, Thursday is the last day for the House to give preliminary approval to nonlocal bills and joint resolutions, such as House Bill 2756, which allows the open carrying of guns. Countless bills will be competing for space on the calendars as each of the legislative deadlines come up.
“Time is running out,” said Bill Miller, a veteran Austin lobbyist. “The proverbial logjam is beginning to occur.”
At this point in the session, most bills are vulnerable to legislative maneuvers, such as points of order, that could derail them with little time to get them back on track.
But political observers say where there’s a will, there’s a way. “There are always exceptions to the rule,” Miller said.
Fort Worth-based political consultant Bryan Eppstein said lawmakers and their staffs will be working 80- to 100-hour weeks to get through as many bills as possible.
“There are many opportunities available for passing initiatives,” Eppstein said. “The final month of the Legislature is like playing a game of three-dimensional chess.”
Open-carry advocates have asked legislators to free them from the constraints of concealing their handguns. They started online petitions — now signed by more than 71,000 people — asking Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature to approve an open-carry measure.
“Although time is running short in the 82nd Legislature, I am more than confident that HB2756 has plenty of time to pass into law,” said Shane McCrary, president of the Lone Star Citizens Defense League grassroots group. “The same licensed folks in Texas will be carrying handguns when the law changes.
“They will simply be able to carry their handgun exposed with ‘a view to prevent crime.'”
Rep. Lon Burnam opposed the bill in the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
“It’s a horrible bill,” said Burnam, D-Fort Worth. “I don’t think I want to live in the Wild West, and I don’t think most Texans do either.”
Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, who is carrying the bill, said he hasn’t given up on it reaching the House floor.
“We still have time, but it is very short,” he said. “I simply believe Texans should be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights and provide for their personal safety.”
Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said he would support the bill if given a chance.
“The way I read the Second Amendment, Texas doesn’t have the right to prohibit open carry,” King said. “If it comes to the floor, I will vote for it.”
Another gun bill may be stalled for other reasons.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, is searching for a way to pass a bill letting Texans 21 and older who have concealed handgun permits carry their guns at colleges and universities.
Unable to get votes to bring his bill up because of Democratic opposition, he tried last week to add it as an amendment to another education-related bill, carried by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
After senators approved the amendment to allow concealed carry on campus to Zaffirini’s bill, she withdrew her bill and said she would rather let it die than pass it with the gun measure.
Wentworth is expected to continue looking for another bill on which to attach his proposal.