SENATE APPROVES OPEN CARRY LEGISLATION
|Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls sponsored the bill that would allow licensed individuals to carry handguns in the open.|
(AUSTIN) — Licensed gun owners could carry handguns openly under a bill tentatively approved by the Senate Monday. Senate Bill 17 by Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls would create a single license to cover both concealed and open carry, and those who qualify would be permitted to carry a handgun openly in a belt or shoulder holster. Estes said the same requirements currently in place for the concealed carry license, including background and mental health checks, would remain in place. Additionally, private property owners would be permitted to ban open carry on their premises in the same manner they can ban concealed carry today. The bill will now face a final vote later in the week before it heads to the House for consideration.
Also Monday, Members of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security voted in favor of a measure that seeks to strengthen security along the Texas/Mexico border. SB 3 by Subcommittee Chair Brian Birdwell of Granbury is an effort to use state resources to address a federal duty that supporters say Washington ignores. Birdwell warned that lax border security has implications statewide. "Border crime is not just a border problem, it is a Texas problem," he said.
Border security has been a key issue for state leadership, with Governor Greg Abbott naming it an emergency issue facing the state and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick calling for additional funding for national guard troops stationed on the Rio Grande. Birdwell's bill doesn't contain funding for this purpose; that would come from the Senate budget bill, but it would affirm the Senate's opinion that the surge of DPS and National Guard troops along the border has been effective at curbing illegal crossings and that the state should continue to fund such measures.
SB 3 would also reclassify human trafficking, targeting those who smuggle people across the border, as organized crime and offer prosecutors stricter potential penalties for offenders. It would also require that local law enforcement begin using a federal standard of crime reporting to ensure the uniformity of crime data at local, state and federal level. It would also commission a new training center to be placed in the Rio Grande Valley region to train peace officers relating to border security issues and would additionally establish a multi-agency intelligence center to coordinate the sharing of border crime information across jurisdictions. The bill now heads to the full Veteran's Affairs and Military Installations Committee for further consideration.
The subcommittee also considered a more controversial measure, SB 185 authored by Lubbock Senator Charles Perry. That bill would prohibit cities from making policies that ignore federal and state immigration statutes. It is aimed at so called "sanctuary cities" where the official policy of municipal police department is to not inquire into the immigration status of people questioned or detained by officers. "Cities shouldn't be allow to pick and choose what laws they enforce," said Perry. Though the measure included language that prohibits racial profiling, lawmakers opposed to the measure raised concerns that it won't be enough to prevent bias towards Hispanic Texans. "Even though there may be a provision in here that seeks to prohibit racial profiling it doesn't mean it's not going to take place," argued El Paso Senator José Rodríguez. The bill remains pending before the committee.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 17 at 11 a.m.