Guns could be legal in workplace
By Enrique Rangel | A-J AUSTIN BUREAU
Monday, March 30, 2009
Story last updated at 3/30/2009 - 1:28 am
AUSTIN - Last week the Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow Texans to take their guns and ammunition to work as long as they leave the weapons in their car - even if their bosses object.
"Here in Texas people like their firearms," Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the author of the bill, said. "If they want to bring them to the workplace they are going to do it whether there is a policy or not."
Although Hegar's bill is now in the House where it faces more scrutiny, it is not the only gun-related legislation in the 81st Legislature. There are several other gun-related bills this session, including one that would allow Texans with concealed weapon licenses to carry their firearms on college campuses and another that would exempt the purchase of guns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition from the state sales tax if the items are bought the last weekend of August, both filed by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.
Wentworth, a Texas Tech Law School graduate, along with Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, is also the author of the castle doctrine law, which the Legislature passed in 2007. That law allows Texans to use deadly force against a would-be attacker, be at home, at work or even in their car.
In this session, Driver also filed the House companion to Wentworth's bill that would allow people with concealed gun licenses to carry their firearms on college campuses.
But Wentworth, Driver and many of their colleagues who support gun rights know that there are only so many gun-related bills that even a Second Amendment-friendly Texas Legislature has stomach for.
One much-touted bill that no one in the Senate or the House dared to file was the so-called open carry, which would have allowed Texans to wear their firearms in plain view, just like law enforcement officers in uniform do.
"I just think that the law that we passed about 15 or 16 years ago for concealed-carry is working pretty well and I don't see the need for an open-carry bill," Wentworth said.
Wentworth's remarks were measured compared to some made by other legislators.
"I see no point on open-carry," said Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who has a concealed weapon license. "I think it is publicly intimidating (and) it has nothing to do with the right to keep and bear arms. It has to do with common sense."
"The open-carry? That is definitely the Wild West," said Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso. "I am not in big fan of that one."
"The concealed-carry law we have in the books is working just fine," said Rep. Joe Heflin, D-Crosbyton, who also has a concealed gun license. "We don't need an open-carry because it would be frightening to see a lot of people carrying guns."
"It's crazy," added Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, another legislator with a concealed gun license. "How would you feel if you walked into a 7-Eleven at midnight and you saw a guy carrying a gun?"
Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, who was considering filing the open carry bill said she heard similar comments from even some of her gun-rights colleagues and decided not to introduce the legislation.
"This is not the time," Riddle said. "We have a lot of other issues this session and this would have been a major distraction."
Mike Stollenwerk, a former Texas resident and co-founder of a northern Virginia group that calls itself OpenCarry.org, said that although he is disappointed that neither Riddle nor another legislator filed the open-carry bill he is not discouraged.
"I am a glass half-full type of guy," Stollenwerk said. "We didn't get it done this time but we think we'll eventually get it done."
Stollenwerk said he based his optimism on the fact that there were several gun-related bills filed this session.
But Stollenwerk and Ian McCarthy of Austin, who approached some legislators to file the open carry bill, also acknowledged that even in Texas, a state considered friendly to the Second Amendment, gun-related bills face some obstacles because some legislators think there are already too many gun-laws in the books.
Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, for example, has said that if it ever gets to the House floor, he will oppose the legislation that would allow people with concealed weapon licenses to carry their firearms on college campuses.
And Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said the bill that would make the last weekend of August a tax holiday for anyone who buys guns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition is a bad idea. Even some, such as Seliger and Pickett, don't think such legislation is a good idea.
"No, we don't need to exempt the purchase of guns and ammunition from sales taxes, like we do for families who buy clothes and shoes for their kids before they go back to school," Seliger said.
However, Wentworth and Driver said they are not discouraged about the opposition to their bills.
"When we passed the concealed-carry we heard the same arguments," Driver said. "There were plenty of naysayers who said it would be a terrible law."