Moms Demand Action and other anti-gun groups said open carry and other gun rights legislation would turn Texas into the Wild Wild West – and it did, at least in the Texas Legislature.
The story surrounding Second Amendment legislation and how some bills came to pass provides a valuable snapshot of many of the themes of the 84th session. The story highlights conservatives who rode into Austin to promote limited government and exposes those resisted them in an effort to cling to political power. It reveals those who shoot straight and advocate for the issues Texans care about in broad daylight, and those who seek to subvert them in smoky backrooms.
Despite years of Republican control of the Texas Legislature, progress on Second Amendment legislation had largely stalled in recent sessions. In fact, the biggest victory – the legalization of concealed carry in the Lone Star State – was done while Democrats still controlled both chambers of the legislature in 1995.
There was certainly debate on other issues, but no other matter so clearly defined this legislative session than the issue of gun rights. Though the tax debate was a major issue, it did not present the same level of conflict. After all, the Senate-House proxy war between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was not about raising or cutting taxes, but rather which ways to cut them.
Western movies aren’t very interesting if everyone wears a white hat. Thankfully, on Second Amendment issues there was a clear divide in the legislature—an almost Hatfield and McCoy-like feud featuring two camps.
Supporting Second Amendment rights were conservatives including Dan Patrick, most of the Senate Republicans, and a few House conservatives versus the coalition of liberal Republicans in the House, helmed by Joe Straus, and his liberal Democrat allies.
When the dust settled, 2nd Amendment advocates mostly carried the day, but not before liberal Republicans and Democrats extracted a number of concessions and failed in various tactics designed to kill the pro-gun bills. Though watered down, the measures that passed represent a sizable expansion of gun rights for Texans.
In the days ahead, we’ll be releasing a comprehensive play-by-play of how the 84th Legislative Session went on 2nd Amendment issues. Based off of an extensive review of the archives and conversations with lawmakers, activists, and others, the series should provide a snapshot of how one set of issues played out under the dome.
- Surveying the Field
- Loading the Legislation
- Amending on the Hip
- Bull’s-eye on Final Passage