AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers gavel into the 2017 legislative session January. Between now and then there will likely be continued debate over combating terrorism and how our current gun laws help or hurt public safety. Here’s a quick look at recent history.
Texas lawmakers have responded to mass shootings by expanding gun rights over the last few years. Look for them to continue the trend.
Six months after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conneticut, Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 1907, allowing Texans to keep their weapons in their cars on college campuses.
Two years and hundreds more mass shootings later, lawmakers passed House Bill 910, known as “open carry.” It allows Texans to carry their guns out in the open as long as they have license. That went into effect at the beginning of this year. Lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 11, known as “campus carry.” In less than two months, Texans will be allowed to carry concealed guns into college classrooms as long as they have a license.
Since the law passed, a barrage of businesses have banned guns on their property. A 30.06 sign — citing a part of the law — bans concealed carry in a business. A 30.07 sign bans open carry.
A push to improve public safety could take down these signs.
“You have a gun free zone, obviously the bad guys can read too. They’re going to feel safer to commit a crime inside that establishment,” said Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas.
He filed a bill last year, which allowed Texans to carry without a license. It didn’t pass. But the idea known as “constitutional carry” was overwhelmingly approved as part of the Republican Party platform. Republicans have a super majority in both Houses. Senator Huffines does not know yet if he will refile the bill to rid Texans of license requirements but expects to file some type of second amendment expansion.
“I think this session will be a different perspective. We’ve had more time to educate members about it,” said Sen. Huffines,”It doesn’t require anyone to carry a weapon. If somebody doesn’t feel comfortable being armed or being around guns at all, which is certainly a lot of folks, this doesn’t require them to do anything different from how they conduct their lives.
Sunday, a gunman linked to the Islamic terrorist organization ISIS stormed into a gay nightclub in Orlando and fatally shot 49 people with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle. Sen. Huffines believes the war on terror could encourage people to arm themselves and look for more options.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
If an establishment has 51 percent or more of its business coming from alcohol, Texas law bans a license holder from carrying their gun inside. After the Orlando shooting, Open Carry Texas, a prominent second amendment rights organization, tells KXAN they will push to repeal that portion of the law.
The nightclub “Pulse” in Orlando had an armed police officer at the front, but patrons could not take guns inside.
Gun control groups pushing for background checks for all sales know it’s a steep climb to change Texas gun laws. The more than 7,000 licensed gun stores in Texas run background checks, but sales at gun shows and person to person sales do not require them.
“Like everyone else across the country, I was shocked, I was horrified to hear the news. Twenty was shocking but when I heard it went up to fifty… it’s terrible,” said Andrea Brauer, Executive Director of Texas Gun Sense, “My first action is to get to work right away.”
Brauer began her day Monday setting plans up to draw awareness of the Texas gun violence problem and getting people together to make policy changes. Law enforcement group and child advocacy groups attend her quarterly discussions on gun violence, mental health, and public health. Their major policy goal is getting a background check on every gun sale.
“We have Republicans and Democrats attend but there are certain leaders that have not been there and we are going to reach out to them this week,” she says.
She plans to continue to send letters to the governor, lieutenant governor and other key lawmakers, inviting them to their discussions.
“Let’s just have a discussion about it. You can’t even move forward if you, A, don’t acknowledge it as a problem and, B, won’t even come to the table for a conversation.” she said.
Right now, lawmakers favor expanding where people can carry over any type of gun control.