Texas lawmakers love to talk guns more than anything else on earth, maybe even more than football or barbecue or PAC money.
But the Lege finally had enough gun grandstanding this week, and moved a simple licensed open-carry handgun bill toward a vote before anyone could load up another pointless debate.
For state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls and the senator for Parker and Wise counties, it was a chance to say “I told you so” about an amendment that would have prevented police from stopping anyone with a gun solely to ask to see a license.
“I encouraged people to vote against it, because I thought it added confusion,” Estes said by phone Thursday after a conference committee penciled out the amendment, which passed both the House and Senate but came under attack from police groups.
Estes said the amendment was no big deal, yet it must have been a very big deal.
More than 30 House members changed their votes after former officers, including state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, argued strongly against the amendment.
“There was too much opportunity for judges to misinterpret,” Estes said, arguing that Fourth Amendment court decisions already limit when and why police can stop anyone.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham, an activist for open-carry rights since a 2013 arrest in Temple, disagreed and called the votes a written record of “the true constitutionalists in our Legislature.”
Grisham argues that the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing limited handgun ownership for home defense also should include a right to carry without the current state license.
“Some members told us they agreed but just ‘not this session,’ and then they argued against this,” he said by phone.
“We’ll remember that.”
The debate was further clouded Thursday when former Mansfield resident Kory Watkins, a Republican precinct chairman and leader of a different open-carry group, called for opposing lawmakers to be “charged with treason” and face being hanged “from the tree of liberty.”
“I’ve never met Mr. Watkins,” Estes said.
“I think we have a good bill that upholds Second Amendment freedom. I like the idea of people going through this [state handgun] course.”
At least we still require a license.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538