While the “token victory” of licensed open carry legislation was moving through the legislature, campus carry was left languishing by the coalition government of liberal House Republicans and Democrats. The measure was passed by the Senate but its House counterpart failed to advance.
Indeed, it was that situation which prompted us to cover the dire status of the campus carry bill in the House Calendars Committee.
Straus finally referred the Senate companion to the House Public Safety committee only hours after the article exposing the dark death sentence bestowed on the House version was published. Though campus carry still faced a rough path ahead, its supporters breathed a sigh of relief.
Once referred, the measure was slow-boated in committee even though its sponsor, State Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) wielded the gavel. Though the bill finally passed committee, it was not placed on a calendar until the final day the House could pass legislation.
By burying campus carry along with a major pro-life bill on the final calendar, House leadership set up their Democratic allies to speak the legislation to death through a process known as “chubbing.” By simply taking a long amount of time debating other legislation, Democrats could kill campus carry while Republican leadership assigned them blame for doing so. The oft-used tactic allows Straus and his allies to play the role of a Scooby Doo villain saying, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling Democrats!”
As the midnight deadline drew near, a quiet rebellion brewed in the House Republican caucus. In an attempt to get the campus carry bill to the floor (along with the pro-life bill behind it) many Republican members moved to sacrifice their own bills by postponing them, effectively dooming them to death by deadline.
The only exception to the sacrifice was State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), who was determined to pass his perversion of a major ethics reform package. When State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) asked Cook to postpone his unconstitutional bill, citing the deadline, Cook stonewalled and refused.
Cook’s inaction prompted a further movement by House Republicans. Conservative members began collecting signatures to move the previous question, a procedure that would end debate and allow them to pass the campus carry bill. Faced with the prospect of being caught red-handed and their obstruction showcased on full display, Straus and the Democrats relented and allowed the measure to come up rather than allow the Republican majority to exercise control over the legislative process.
Still seeking to find a way to kill the legislation, two of Straus’ lieutenants moved to insert a poison pill. Liberal Republican State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), the chairman of the Higher Education Committee along with pro-abortion State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), inserted stipulations that would force private campuses to also allow concealed carry before allowing the bill to pass—10 minutes before the deadline.
The amendment was viewed as a poison pill designed to exploit the political power of Texas’ private universities to help kill the overall bill, as they would oppose being compelled by the state to allow firearms. The next day, State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) took the legislation back up in the Senate. Birdwell argued that private universities are private property and should have the authority to ban concealed carry if they wish. He further argued that an advance in Second Amendment rights was not to be bought by sacrificing private property rights.
“I am duty-bound to protect Second Amendment rights parallel to private property rights,” said Birdwell. “We must protect most private property rights equally, and not protect one or the other.”
Meanwhile in the House, Phillips moved to concur with the Senate changes to the House licensed open carry bill. Given time to prepare their defenses, the Straus coalition once again carried the day. Though Democrats and a majority of the Republican caucus stood together and moved to concur, they were defeated on the floor. Pushed by liberal police groups, a group of Republicans defected and joined the Democrats to vote against the Dutton-Rinaldi-Huffines amendment (4th Amendment protections) included in the bill.
The votes in both chambers forced a conference committee to be appointed for both items of legislation. Ultimately, Birdwell and the Senate were able to successfully pressure the House into removing the mandate for private universities on campus carry while Huffines agreed to back down on his amendment protecting open carriers from police harassment.
The legislation was agreed to in the final days in a rather anti-climactic fashion, especially considering the degree of political theater on the issue all session. Both bills were signed by the Gov. Abbott in mid-June.
Other gun rights bills signed by Gov. Abbott include a law that penalizes local governments that illegally attempt to ban concealed carry in their buildings, a law that allows Texans who accidentally carry into an airport to return to their cars, and an amendment to the state constitution preserving the right to hunt and fish by traditional methods.
The list of bills failing to pass was much shorter, but featured legislation that would have made it easier for Texans to obtain silencers, a tax holiday for firearms and ammunition, and constitutional carry.
“We’re very happy with what passed. There’s a few things left to do, but if I’m smiling at the end of a session it’s a good thing,” said Tripp. “And I’m smiling right now.”
Though the beginning of the session was surely an uphill battle for the outflanked supporters of open carry, herculean grassroots pressure in the end scored a long-awaited win for gun rights. Their victory is greater than just the increased freedom for Texans who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights: by successfully navigating the legislative process in spite of repeated attempts at obstructionism from within their own party, grassroots activists were able to highlight precisely who fights for the rights of Texans, and who defends the status quo.
The line separating the two sides isn’t drawn on partisan lines; but, like any good western worth telling, the good guys won out in the end.
And now you know the rest of the story.