The 2015 Texas Legislative Session has barely begun and several very good gun bills have already been filed. Still more pro-gun bills are going to be filed shortly, so 2015 has the potential to be a banner year for law-abiding Texas gun owners. One of these pro-gun bills stands head and shoulders above all others in terms of its importance to and impact on Texas gun owners and that is HB308 by Rep. Drew Springer.
When SB60 passed in 1995 creating the first concealed handgun license statute in Texas, a system was set up that allows Texans to carry self-defense handguns. A 125+ year ban on possessing the tools with which to defend one’s life was finally lifted. Those who wrote and worked hard to pass SB60 knew that Texans would be as responsible and law-abiding as citizens of Florida and other states, but the concept of private citizens carrying handguns was considered radical by many. Thus, several so-called “safeguards” had to be included in the Bill in order to get the votes necessary for it to pass. In almost every Texas legislative session since 1995, the concealed handgun statute has been improved, gun rights have been expanded, and unnecessary restrictions and obstacles have been repealed. One glaring injustice remains – some areas remain off-limits to Texas concealed handgun licensees (CHLs).
In the 19+ years since concealed-carry passed, CHLs have proven themselves to be the most law-abiding of Texans. Statistics prove that they are over 17 times less likely to commit a crime than is the general public. This track record is even better than Texas peace officers who also posted an enviable record, with CHLs being seven times less likely to commit a crime than are our brothers and sisters who wear the badge. The obvious question is “why are CHLs prohibited from carrying self-defense handguns in areas where peace officers can carry their handguns, even when they are off duty?”
Areas in which it is unlawful to possess firearms are set out primarily in two sections in the Texas Penal Code, i.e. Sections 46.03 and 46.035. Aside from the excellent track record garnered by Texas CHLs, the logic behind the various prohibited areas is faulty to put it mildly. For example, a CHL can carry a handgun anywhere on a school campus, but not in a school building. A CHL can carry in a restaurant that sells and serves alcohol and the CHL can even consume alcohol, so long as they are not intoxicated. However, they cannot carry in a 51% location even if they do not drink any alcohol. Are we to believe that a CHL does not pose a threat to public safety when they are on a school campus, but they mysteriously become a danger if they step across the threshold into a building? Are we to believe that a sober CHL holder in a restaurant is not a threat to public safety, but they are if they are perfectly sober in a 51% location?
To be fair, when concealed-carry passed in 1995, it was considered by many Texans to be somewhat of a social experiment. Twenty years later, we know that this experiment has been a resounding success. We know the theory that CHLs can be trusted in most areas of Texas, but not in others, was a myth with no more validity than bogeyman stories. It is time to remove all off-limits areas for CHLs; indeed it is long past time to recognize and reward the most law-abiding of Texans.
In 2013, then-freshman Rep. Drew Springer stepped up to the plate for Texas gun owners and filed HB3218. That Bill would have removed all off-limits areas for CHL’s. While HB3218 was well received during committee hearings with no opposition, Chairman Joe Pickett would not let the committee vote on the Bill. Thus, this most important of gun bills died in committee because one man did not want the 150 Members of the Texas House of Representatives to have the opportunity to debate and vote on HB3218.
Fast forward two years and Rep. Springer has once again shown himself to be a champion of Texas gun owners. He has filed HB308 that will accomplish the same goal, removal of current off-limits areas for CHLs. The Bill actually makes other improvements such as the clarification of the definition of “premises” such that intellectually dishonest local officials and anti-gun prosecutors will no longer be able to pervert Legislative intent. A line by line analysis of HB308 is beyond the scope of this article, but it will be covered in another article in the series entitled “Key Gun Bills in 2015.”
Removing all off-limits areas for Texas CHLs will be the most significant gun bill to pass since SB60 passed in 1995 and certainly the most important bill during the 2015 Texas Legislative Session. Now that is really saying something because we have passed a lot of very good gun bills over the years, with more to come this Session. This shows just how important HB308 is to Texas gun owners.
Texans have always had the right to protect their own lives and the lives of their families, but the tools necessary to do so had been denied them for over 125 years. SB60 ended this injustice for most but not all places in Texas. HB308 will not only remove remaining off-limits areas, it will proclaim that the value of a person’s life does not depend upon where he or she is standing when a predator attacks.
Thank you Rep. Springer for staying in the fight for Texans and for filing and working to pass the most important Texas gun bill in 20 years!