Gun rights legislation advances in the Texas Legislature

With national attention focused on gun violence and Second Amendment rights, the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature seems determined to take a stand on guns, with bills that include allowing concealed weapons on university campuses to legislation denying the enforcement of federal gun laws.

"In Texas, we believe in freedom, personal responsibility and the God-given right to defend yourself and your family," Gov. Rick Perry told the National Rifle Association during its recent meeting in Houston "We never lose faith in our Founding Fathers' wisdom to include the Second Amendment to the Constitution among the Bill of Rights. A threat to gun ownership is a threat to a basic Constitutional right."

The House on Saturday passed around a dozen bills related to guns, designed to expand and protect those rights, including a bill by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Houston, that would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their guns on college campuses.

The chamber also passed a bill by Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, that would penalize local governments that seek to enforce any federal gun bans.

"The Second Amendment is the amendment that keeps people free," Toth said.

Houston Democrat Gene Wu, a former prosecutor, took issue with that bill on his Twitter feed with this comment:

"In case your head is too thick to understand: State law will not trump federal law," he wrote.

Much of the legislation passed by the House now faces resistance in the Senate.

Details on bills

Included in the bills approved by the chamber were measures that would create a new offense for the illegal seizure of a firearm, make it easier for CHL holders to renew their licenses, reduce the number of training hours needed for a license and protect CHL holders from being penalized for "accidentally" showing their weapons in public.

And a bill by freshman Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, establishes a school marshal program modeled after the undercover air marshal program. Schools would choose an employee already licensed to carry a gun who would serve as a volunteer marshal, his or her gun stored on campus away from students but within reach in case of tragedy.

Villalba said he was inspired by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"This legislation provides school districts with a cost-effective school security option that includes robust training tailored to protect children in schools during an active shooter situation," Villalba said.

Opposition to bills

Democrats fought vigorously against the bills, trying several legislative tactics to delay or the kill the bills.

But in a state where a large number of Democrats are also members of the National Rifle Association, their efforts were unsuccessful. About a dozen Democrats voted with Republicans on the campus carry legislation.

Some of the Democrats even carried pro-gun legislation, including House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Chairman Ryan Guillen, who passed a bill prohibiting businesses from posting "no guns" signs in locations where state law allows weapons to be carried.

"Few things are more sacred in the state of Texas than our constitutional right to bear arms," said House Republican Caucus Chairman Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. "As the federal government continues to introduce measures that could infringe upon the Second Amendment, members of the Texas House Republican Caucus are fighting back."

'Campus carry' legislation

Much of the publicity around the so-called "campus carry" legislation has centered on mass shootings at schools like the University of Virginia, but Fletcher, a retired Houston police officer, said his bill is more for personal protection.

"I did not file this bill so that the CHL holders could be heroes in mass shooting situations," Fletcher said. "Those tragic events are thankfully extremely rare. This is to allow CHL holders to protect themselves in situations where the only two people involved are the law-abiding citizen and the criminal intent on doing them harm."

Under current law, Texas universities can decide to allow weapons on campus—in fact, Texas A&M University has already taken that step. This legislation, if it passes both chambers and gets to the governor, would require universities to allow concealed carry on campus unless they opt out—encouraging more participation by more campuses.

The bill is the strongest gun-rights legislation that has gotten movement in the Legislature, but it faces death in the Texas Senate, where a Democratic committee chairman has promised to halt the campus-carry bill and where few of the House measures, except possibly the school marshal bill, has broad support in the upper chamber.

"I don't think there is any question the tragedies around the country put a chilling effect on the broadening of the right to carry, certainly on campuses or any other venue," said Houston Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. "I personally think we need a cooling off period before we extend the right to carry on campuses or any other venues."

Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said he opposed several campus-carry proposals.

"I supported Rep. Villalba's bill to have trained law enforcement in schools, but beyond that, I think we need to de-escalate, not escalate, the amount of weaponry on school campuses," Strama said. "So in general, I opposed a lot of the bills that increased the amount of weapons on campus."


Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel will return to Bridgeland's Nature Fest this weekend. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)
Nature Fest, Oktoberfest, trunk or treat: 6 events to attend in Cy-Fair this weekend, Oct. 22-24

The weekend is just around the corner! See what's happening in Cy-Fair.

Conroe city government and business officials toss dirt with shovels
GALLERY: Hyatt Regency Conroe and Convention Center breaks ground

City officials and business leaders celebrated Hyatt Regency Conroe and Convention Center breaking ground on Oct. 20.

Want to know more about new businesses coming to the Katy area? Below you can find details on the five latest commercial projects filed in Katy. (Courtesy Canva)
MAP: Check out the 5 latest commercial projects filed in Katy, including a renovated Bed Bath & Beyond

Want to know more about new businesses coming to the Katy area? Below you can find details on the five latest commercial projects filed in Katy.

Read more below for the latest five projects that have been filed in the Sugar Land and Missouri City area. (Courtesy Canva)
MAP: Check out the 5 latest commercial projects filed in Sugar Land and Missouri City, including new Shake Shack

Check out the five latest commercial projects filed in Sugar Land and Missouri City.

One event to attend this weekend in Katy is the farmers market. (Courtesy Canva)
4 events to attend in Katy this weekend, Oct. 23-24

Looking for something to do in Katy this weekend? Check out the weekend guide.

The ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit against Magnolia ISD Oct. 21 over the district's gender-based hair policy. (Community Impact staff)
American Civil Liberties Union of Texas sues Magnolia ISD over gender-based hair policy

The lawsuit alleges the district's policy violates the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX.

The Big Show will take place Oct. 23 in Tomball. It was previously scheduled to be in Montgomery. (Courtesy Woodforest)
The Big Show, high school football: 6 events to attend in Tomball, Magnolia on Oct. 22-24

Other events this weekend include three different fall festivals and a concert featuring student bands.

JAX Burgers, Fries & Shakes is the latest restaurant in the mixed-use development of Metropark Square. (Ally Bolender/Community Impact Newspaper)
JAX Burger, Fries & Shakes now open in Metropark Square

The newest JAX location is across from the AMC Theatre.

Health officials, crisis response teams and mental health professionals have reported more people dealing with anxiety, stress, depression and grief in the last year. Nationally, data suggests more people are reporting negative effects to mental health due to COVID-19 than prior to the pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
COVID-19 pandemic highlights mental health gaps in Lake Houston area

In 2020, Mental Health America ranked each state and Washington, D.C., based on the prevalence of mental illness and access to mental health care. Although Texas ranked 27th overall and was third in terms of prevalence of mental illness, the state ranked 51st for access to care.

Stageworks Theatre actors Michael Raabe and Alaina Richard take a bow during a Sept. 30 dress rehearsal of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which runs Oct. 1-30. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Spring arts organizations gear up for new season despite ongoing pandemic

Forced closures caused an estimated $786,000 in losses for three players in the community: Stageworks Theatre, the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts and the Texas Master Chorale. Even as the industry gears up for fall performances, many do not expect to make up for the financial damage.

Jersey Village City Council weighed their options for a May 2022 bond election at an Oct. 18 meeting. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact Newspaper)
Jersey Village City Council mulls potential bond election for May 2022

Residents of Jersey Village could have a $10 million bond election on their May ballots, which could help fund capital projects including a $7.5 million golf course convention center.

One event to attend this weekend is Tricks & Treats in the Park. (Courtesy Canva)
5 things to do in Missouri City, Sugar Land this weekend, Oct. 22-23

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, check out one of these five events in Sugar Land and Missouri City.