Texas Lawmakers Ready For Session’s First Gun Debate
An in-person and online threat against the Legislature has both lawmakers and troopers at the State Capitol on edge. On Thursday, the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee will hear invited testimony over two gun bills being fast-tracked through the legislative process.
On the opening day of the legislative session, gun owners supporting open carry legislation went from office to office, hoping to get lawmakers to pledge their support for an open carry bill. But Eagle Pass Democratic Rep. Poncho Nevárez, who was cornered in his office by the group, has his concerns.
“If open carry remains the way that concealed carry is, those people wouldn’t be eligible; most of them are felons. So the reason they are so vocal and adamant about their position is because they wouldn’t be able to carry a weapon otherwise, and to me, that’s a very dangerous thing,” said Nevárez.
The unlicensed open carry advocate who refused to leave Nevárez’s Capitol office last month, creating quite a scare, also issued an online threat to lawmakers last week. In a self-shot video originally posted on Facebook, Kory Watkins, the vocal spokesman for the group Open Carry Tarrant County, told lawmakers that denying Texas gun owners the passage of a constitutional carry bill — one that would make the open carry of handguns legal and remove licensing requirements for firearms — would be an act of treason, “punishable by death.”
Wichita Falls Republican Sen. Craig Estes is the author of an open carry bill, which would allow gun owners who have passed a concealed carry class to decide if they want to openly holster a handgun in public. Estes says he isn’t expecting anything but a civil debate about guns.
“I think there are maybe some people who have said some unwise things. But at the end of the day, we just want to have a good hearing and I know everyone will be perfectly safe,” Estes said confidently.
The state Senate’s State Affairs Committee will also hear testimony regarding a bill that would allow gun owners with a concealed carry license to take their guns onto college campuses.