Police complaints prompt Texas to reconsider open carry amendment

Reuters / Jim Young
Opposition from police is being attributed with a decision in the Texas legislature this week to stall an amendment, which would let cops ask gun owners to produce firearms permits on the spot. It’s complicating the future of the state’s open carry rules.

The Texas legislature has to act before the end of the month on a bill that would let handguns be carried openly in the Lone Star State, but the House on Wednesday stalled efforts by electing to send a controversial amendment to a bipartisan conference committee.

Before being shot down on Wednesday evening, the proposed amendment contained language, which if approved would have prohibited police from asking whether a person carrying a firearm has the applicable permits.

Supporters of the amendment said it would have helped curb racial profiling by police, but law enforcement opposed the measure and insisted it would make it more difficult for officers to do their jobs.

State Senator Don Huffines (D-Dallas), the author of the proposal, told the Dallas Morning News earlier in the week that he didn’t think his offering would affect police since it only applied in situations where a person carrying a firearm was otherwise not suspected of any wrongdoing.

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"It's a common-sense amendment to enable someone to fully exercise their second amendment rights of open carry," he explained to the Houston Chronicle.

“If we take the amendment off, I don’t think it’s going to change the law. But with that on there it gives clear direction to law enforcement of what’s allowed,said Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), who sponsored the bill, in the House.

Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), a co-sponsor who is black, said losing the amendment would lead to “more interaction between police and black and brown and poor people because of lawful activity,” according to KVUE News.

Nevertheless, police from across Texas showed up at the state capitol in Austin on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to reject the proposal.

“This amendment is going to jeopardize citizens’ safety and the safety of the officers who are out there working for them,” said Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston.

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The so-called “no-stop” provision, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters on Wednesday, “handcuffs law enforcement.”

“If it doesn’t get removed, the only responsible thing to do is for the governor to veto,” urged Acevedo.

"Before this measure reaches Governor Greg Abbott's desk, lawmakers need to put public safety over politics and allow Texas peace officers to make the decision on whether someone carrying a firearm should be questioned," Todd Harrison, the president of CLEAT, the largest police union in the state, said in a statement.

With the amendment being nixed in the House, a 10-member committee from the House and Senate will try to iron out a compromise before the full legislation is brought to a vote, KVUE News reported.

Earlier in the week, the Texas House voted 101-to-47 in favor of a Senate bill that restricts universities from banning the concealed carrying of handguns on campus.