While Republican lawmakers are leading the effort to protect the gun rights of law-abiding Texans, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Texas Gun Sense” argued for making criminals out of well-meaning Texas gun owners.
The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence met Monday to hear testimony on several bills, including one measure that would provide a defense to prosecution for licensed gun owners who inadvertently carry a firearm onto private property posted with the statutory-mandated 30.06 or 30.07 signage that prevents concealed and open carry respectively.
That bill, House Bill 121 by State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), would effectively close a loophole in Sections 30.06 & 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code which currently allows for the prosecution of a licensed individual who carries a firearm onto property where a sign has been posted prohibiting the carrying of a weapon. As it stands, individuals can be prosecuted for unknowingly violating the prohibition even if they leave immediately after having been made aware of it.
Gyl Switzer, executive director of Bloomberg’s project called Texas Gun Sense, registered the organization’s official opposition to the bill, answering a few questions following her testimony.
Freshman Democrat State Rep. Leo Pacheco of San Antonio questioned Switzer about a hypothetical situation in which he and his son visit a restaurant with a 30.07 sign posted out front. In this scenario, he removes his jacket, revealing a concealed firearm, before being made aware of the establishment’s prohibition on openly carrying a firearm.
Pacheco plainly asks whether Texas Gun Sense would insist on making criminals out of all gun owners who unknowingly violate the prohibition, having not seen the signage on their way into the establishment.
“My son taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Dad, you need to put your coat back on.’ And I do that. So, what you’re saying is, that person should be charged with a crime?” Pacheco asked.
“I would have to say you have to abide by the law,” Switzer says, affirming Pacheco’s suspicions that a Texan trying to follow the law could face criminal charges for a simple, and quickly corrected, mistake.
Rachel Malone, Texas director for Gun Owners of America, underscored Pacheco’s point in her testimony in support of the legislation.
“HB 121 is a great bill that offers a healthy balance between gun rights and property rights,” said Malone. “It removes criminal penalties from people who are making a good-faith effort to follow the law.”
Malone said some Democrats, like Pacheco, have shown an increasing interest in pro-Second Amendment legislation this session, mostly due to a growing understanding of the criminal justice elements surrounding Texas gun laws.
“Legislation promoting the right to keep and bear arms is a nonpartisan concept. The point is to remove criminal penalties from people who are not causing harm, and lawmakers are starting to better understand and support that concept,” she added.
With even Democrats skeptical of the claims of anti-Second Amendment activists, gun owners should be encouraged of their prospects in the Texas Legislature; with sincere effort and energy, they can likely prevail in ensuring the rights of responsible gun owners are protected.