North Texas Lawmaker Aims To Limit Gun-Free Zones

Gun-free zones at schools, bars, sporting events, hospitals and churches would be largely obsolete if Rep. Drew Springer has his way.

Springer, R-Muenster, has authored a bill — laid out Tuesday before a House committee — that he hopes eliminates most restrictions on where the state’s nearly 826,000 concealed handgun license holders can carry their weapons.

He said his bill would advance the rights of “responsible, law-abiding citizens.”

Even in a gun-friendly state — and Legislature — it’s unclear what kind of support there would be for such a far-reaching bill. And the effort Tuesday received stiff opposition from hospital officials and pastors, in addition to the usual gun control advocates.

But the early attention paid to the bill nonetheless underlines the Legislature’s outsized focus this year on firearms legislation.

“What a difference a session makes,” Springer said, noting the long list of people signed up to testify for or against the bill.

Much of the emphasis this year has been put on the open carry and campus carry bills, which have both passed the Senate. But dozens of other bills have been filed that would likewise loosen restrictions on the state’s firearms laws.

The Senate, for instance, approved a bill Tuesday that would allow people to use a lower caliber weapon to qualify for a concealed handgun license. And the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee heard testimony on a litany of other gun bills.

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Bill Authorizing $10,000 Fines For ‘No Guns’ Signs Passes Texas Senate

A proposal that won the approval of the Texas Senate last week could leave concealed carry permit holders in the Lone Star State with fewer “gun-free zones” — under threat of heavy fines.

The measure, filed in January, would not only prohibit many state and local public buildings from barring lawful concealed carry, it would strip sovereign immunity from governmental bodies and officials who pursued such policies and allow them to be sued by gun owners for damages.

It passed the Senate on March 18 by a large 26-5 margin on its third reading.

“SB 273 protects citizens from improperly posted 30.06 signs used to coerce CHL holders into unnecessarily disarming on government property,” posted the legislation’s author, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, on her social media account. “Today I am pleased to announce it passed the Senate and is on its way to the House!”

Campbell’s legislation, SB 273, would forbid a state or local agency or subdivision from posting signs restricting carry of concealed handguns by lawful permit holders. Those found in violation would face a fine of a minimum of $1,000 for the first incident and as much as $10,500 for subsequent violations. Government officials and agencies can be found liable for civil damages as well.

The bill would allow some provisions for keeping gun-free zones in schools, polling places and courts as well as property under federal control, and private property, but would provide a method to strike those in almost all other areas.

Officially opposing the measure are the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, the Texas Association of Counties and the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas.

Supporting the measure are gun rights groups to include the National Rifle Association, Texas State Rifle Association and Open Carry Texas.

The state Legislative Budget Board found earlier this month in an analysis of the bill that it was likely to cause no significant financial impact to the state government and any fines collected because of the law would be credited to the Victims of Crime Fund. According to the website for the fund, it provides victims of violent crime financial assistance for crime-related expenses that cannot be reimbursed by insurance or other sources.

In 2013, Kansas passed a broadly similar measure that allows CCW permit holders to carry concealed firearms into most government buildings which was later clarified to include some polling places.

The Texas bill now heads to the Republican-controlled House and if it were successful there would land on the desk of Gov. Gregg Abbott (R), a former state attorney general who has vowed to sign pro-gun legislation.


Texas Senate Approves Open Carry of Handguns

The Texas Senate has given preliminary approval to allowing licensed open carry of handguns in the state.

The first major gun-rights vote of the legislative session came Monday after more than two hours of debate. A final vote to send the bill to the House is expected Tuesday.

Texas has allowed concealed carry of handguns since 1995, but a recent push for open carry has been taken up by new Republican leaders such as Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Texas is just one of six states that ban open carry of handguns. Abbott says he’ll sign an open carry bill into law if passed.

Gun-rights groups call the bill an important Second Amendment protection. Opponents say openly carrying guns intimidates the general public.


House Bill Would Ban AR-15 Bullet

Democrats are pressing new legislation in the House that would ban forms of armor-piercing ammunition.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) is pushing the Armor Piercing Bullets Act followingthe Obama administration’s decision earlier this week to withdraw a controversial proposal that would restrict 5.56 mm projectiles for M855 cartridges commonly used in AR-15 rifles.

“Armor-piercing rounds like green tips should only be in the hands of military personnel or police officers, period,” Engel said. “There is absolutely no compelling argument to be made for anyone else to have access to them.”

“But the out-of-touch gun industry lobby is fighting tooth and nail to keep cop-killing ammunition on the streets. We need to speak up on behalf of our police officers and say ‘stop the madness, ’” he added.
Engel’s legislation, expected to be introduced Friday, would restrict the sale of the 5.56 mm projectiles, which can can penetrate police body armor.

“Deers do not wear body armor,” a spokesman for Engel joked. “No, I have never met a deer that walks around in Kevlar.”

Even as they pursue legislation, congressional Democrats are also pushing for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to move ahead with restrictions on the armor-piercing bullets.

The ATF had sought to prohibit gun companies from manufacturing or selling 5.56 mm projectiles for M855 cartridges, but shelved the plan after an outcry from gun groups and congressional Republicans.

Dozens of Democrats, including including Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.), are expected to sign a letter that will be sent on Friday to ATF Director B. Todd Jones asking him to reconsider the plan.

Speier is also planning to introduce her own piece of legislation next week that would more broadly ban forms of armor-piercing ammunition.


New Bill Gives the Attorney General the Power to Block Gun Sales to ‘Suspected’ Terrorists

More than two dozen Democrats in the House and Senate — and one Republican — want to give the U.S. attorney general the power to block the sale of guns and explosives to known terrorists, and also to anyone who is “appropriately suspected” of being a terrorist.

The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act was introduced this week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). They say it makes no sense that people on the terrorist watch list are prohibited from boarding airplanes in the United States, but are still free to buy guns and explosives.

“Federal law already prohibits nine categories of dangerous persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, including the mentally ill and criminals,” said King. “Yet, after almost 14 years, we still allow suspected terrorists the ability to purchase firearms. It’s time for common sense to prevail before it’s too late.”

Feinstein and King noted that according to GAO, people on the terrorist watch list who tried to buy a weapon in 2013 and 2014 were successful about 93 percent of the time.

But it seems unlikely that a GOP-led House and Senate will agree to give the attorney general the power to stop gun sales, especially with President Barack Obama still in office for the next two years.

Under the bill, the attorney general would be able to stop the transfer of a gun or explosive to a “known or suspected” terrorist if it’s possible the person might use the firearm in connection with terrorism. The bill language says the attorney general can stop the transfer if he or she “has a reasonable belief that the prospective transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism.”

Sales could be blocked to anyone known to be involved in terrorist activities, or anyone who is “appropriately suspected.” That term is used throughout the bill but is never defined, and would likely be a cause for alarm by defenders of the Second Amendment who might worry about giving the attorney general too much discretion in deciding who is “appropriately suspected” of terrorism.

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