Stark contrasts as gun bills are filed ahead of ’17 legislature

FILE - A holstered gun (Nexstar File Photo)
FILE - A holstered gun (Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers this session will again take up who can carry guns and where they can carry them. Last session they decided Texans can carry guns openly and into college classrooms.

Susan Nelson says a burglar shot her in the back of the head from four feet away after taking her friend’s gun. “That night, April 4, 1993, my world stopped and totally changed,” said Nelson. Her friend didn’t survive.

“After the rehab I spent five years wandering. I continue to see psychologists. I continue to go to physical therapy that I pay on my own,” said Nelson.

She joined Texas Gun Sense outside the Capitol. Flanked by lawmakers, police associations, church leaders and a gun store owner, they want universities to be able to opt out of “campus carry,” a gun ban in state hospitals and a state campaign on gun safety. A major focus was on the staggering amount of gun-related suicides and what can be done.

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, filed the bills for campuses to expand where gun free zones would exist and to keep them out of state hospitals. “I think if we just use some common sense we’d recognize that’s not exactly a place where we should be having weaponry,” said Rep. Howard.

Andrea Brauer, Executive Director of Texas Gun Sense told the crowd at a press conference that they support many efforts to “ensure that those who should not have guns, do not have guns.”

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed a bill removing the license requirement to carry a firearm. “I don’t think it’s right for us to pay a fee and take a class for us to exercise our second amendment rights.”

He says since lawmakers allowed license holders to carry openly, they proved gun owners are responsible enough for the license to be optional. “The question that we need to ask ourselves is: does a state mandated test equal safety and I don’t think that it does,” said Stickland.

There are sharp distinctions as lawmakers start their work after the holidays.

Rep. Stickland says his bill, calling for what’s known as “constitutional carry,” was overwhelmingly approved by the Texas GOP party platform. He thinks it will pass the Republican-controlled legislature if the bill gets to the floors of both chambers.

Other gun legislation is expected to be filed. There’s talk of getting rid of the 51 percent law. That prohibits gun owners from carrying inside bars and restaurants where 51 percent of revenue comes from alcohol. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick already said lowering the price of a license to carry will be one of his priorities.