Craig Estes

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

A Texas Senate committee voted Monday to send the House’s open carry bill to the Senate floor for consideration.

HB 910, which Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) authored, would allow licensed gun owners to openly carry handguns in belt or shoulder holsters. Senators reviewed the measure, which passed in the House in mid-April, in the State Affairs committee Monday. 

“I think everyone that is tackling these issues wants to work against violence. Sometimes we see these things in very different ways,” said Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), who laid out Phillip’s bill Monday.

Estes presented the bill with a few adjustments to the House version, including the removal of a controversial amendment by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) that would prevent officers from asking open carriers if they have a handgun license.

Later down the line, lawmakers may attempt to attach “campus carry” to HB 910, according to multiple reports. Several testimonies at the hearing brought up the possible addition.

Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), author of the House campus carry bill,  proposed a similar amendment when HB 910 was heard before the full House last month, but the measure was ultimately withdrawn.

Campus carry would allow licensed handgun owners over the age of 21 to bring their guns on campus grounds and in university buildings. Certain buildings, such as residence halls, K-12 schools and on-campus hospitals, would be exempt from the policy. Additionally, private institutions could opt out of campus carry.

Middle Eastern studies senior Jordan Pahl, along with other UT students, attended the hearing to testify against open carry and a potential campus carry amendment. Pahl said most University officials and students oppose campus carry, including UT-Austin President William Powers Jr. and UT System Chancellor William McRaven.

“Students and stakeholders will continue to oppose this legislation,” Pahl said. “It doesn’t contribute to the academic atmosphere of universities, and it does not make our campuses safer. We deserve a voice in what happens to our campuses and communities.”

Later during the hearing, Estes added that while most university officials oppose the bill, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp is in favor of the measure. Estes did not confirm that campus carry would be added as an amendment to the bill.

“There seems to be some concern that these bills will be combined,” Estes said. “I’m not saying they will or they won't.”

Troy Gay, Austin Police Department assistant chief, testified at the hearing on behalf of APD. He said the department believes that while open carry may be better suited in rural areas, it should not be implemented in cities.

“In highly populated areas open carry may cause unnecessary alarm due to our citizens and confusion to law enforcement officers during chaotic situations,” Gay said.

This discussion of open carry follows Sunday’s motorcycle gang shoot out at a Twin Peaks in Waco, where nine people were killed and 18 were injured. The shootout was used as an argument against open carry at the hearing.

Troy said the presence of openly carried guns in similar situations could worsen them. State Affairs Chairwoman Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) said open carry and Sunday’s incident are not related.  

"This bill does not have anything to do with what went on [Sunday,]” Huffman said.

The senate has passed its own versions of campus and open carry this legislative session. For HB 910 to become law, the Senate must pass the bill and the House must approve amendments made in Senate.

The bill must also obtain Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. According to multiple sources, Abbott plans to sign legislation related to both open and campus carry.   

On March 27, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, filed SB 1467, a bill formally establishing economic and tax incentives to American gun manufacturers, in an attempt to encourage them to move their operations to Texas. “Gun manufacturers and people in that industry have been under attack by states who are threatening their Second Amendment rights,” said Estes, according to The Texas Tribune. “We want them to realize that Texas is open for business and Texas is a gun-friendly state.”

This follows weeks of letter-writing and lobbying by prominent Texas conservatives, like Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. The campaign has focused particularly on states that have enacted restrictive gun control policies. In that sense it mirrors Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s belligerent advertising campaign earlier this year encouraging gun-owning New Yorkers to move to Texas. The difference between then and now is that Abbott paid for the ads with his own campaign money.

We’re happy to solicit greater economic investment in Texas, but these initiatives are indicative of political grandstanding rather than good economic policy. In a Senate Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, pointed out that Este’s proposed tax breaks would cost the state $37.7 billion in lost revenue. Of that, $6.2 billion, Uresti said, would come at the expense of already-strapped Texas school districts. Another potential problem is the fact that if President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats succeed in passing an assault weapons ban, Texas will have spent billions propping up an industry that will suddenly find itself cut off at the knees.

However, like the budget proposal, Uresti’s sole “no” vote failed to keep Estes’ bill from passing committee and going to the Senate floor.

If Perry, Estes and other Republican leaders want to score political points by cozying up to gun manufacturers, they certainly have that right, but they shouldn’t do it with our money. Texas schools need it far more.