In its zeal to mislead voters in one North Texas House district, Texas’ largest police lobby association is calling law-abiding gun owners “potential criminals” and labeling all Republican state representatives as “bad on armed criminals.”

CLEAT – the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas – sent a mailer to voters in Dallas County House District 115 supporting former representative Bennett Ratliff and opposing taxpayer champion State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving). In the mailer, the police lobbyists make some rather absurd claims.

Rinaldi is labeled by the group as “bad on armed criminals” for sponsoring an amendment to this session’s open carry law. The amendment sought to protect the rights of lawful gun owners.

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CLEAT attacks Rinaldi because he allegedly “AUTHORED AMENDMENT AND JOINED DEMOCRATS voting for amendment to STOP POLICE from checking licenses of potential criminals with weapons.” In fine print, the group added “Voted YES on his own Amendment to HB 910, April 20, 2015.”

What the group conveniently forgets to tell voters is that every Republican House member voted for the Amendment. In fact, it was only a small group of Democrats that opposed the measure. So by CLEAT’s logic, almost the entire lower chamber favors “armed criminals.”

What did Rinaldi’s amendment actually do? It would have placed in statute the common law rule that police are not entitled to demand a license from a person they see open carrying a firearm just because the person has a visible handgun. The amendment was sometimes referred to as the “Papers Please” amendment because it would have protected lawful open carriers from being harassed simply for exercising their rights.

From CLEAT’s charge, it can be assumed that Ratliff – a notoriously liberal Republican – would have joined the tiny group of Democrats opposing the common sense amendment.

State Senator Don Huffines (R–Dallas) released a statement defending Rinaldi from the false attack.

“You received a mailer yesterday with a number of misrepresentations,” Huffines wrote. “But the worst was the attack for a pro-gun amendment Matt and I worked on together to protect law abiding gun owners. Bennett Ratliff is so desperate to cover his own liberal record that he is spreading lies about Rep. Rinaldi. Please look past the false attacks and remember that Matt Rinaldi was ranked the most conservative legislator in Texas for a reason.”

Another bullet point in the CLEAT mailer absurdly alleged that Rinaldi authored a bill “allowing suspected criminals to legally resist arrest.” The bill, HB 1168, would have actually clarified that a resisting arrest charge needed to be based on a lawful arrest – as it was at common law.

It is disturbing that CLEAT apparently views all open carriers as “potential criminals” and wants the ability to prosecute citizens if they resist the unlawful actions of police officers.

In reality, CLEAT doesn’t actually care about either of the amendments. They represent police unions, and support the liberal Bennett Ratliff over the conservative Matt Rinaldi because they believe that Ratliff will be more pro-union. That’s probably true, but the police lobby ought to come right out and tell that to voters instead of working to mislead them.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.