Politics & Government

Texas: Guns will be in the sights of state lawmakers in 2017

Activists hit the streets Jan. 1, 2016, to embrace their legal ability to openly carry handguns in Texas.
Activists hit the streets Jan. 1, 2016, to embrace their legal ability to openly carry handguns in Texas. Special to the Star-Telegram

Measures to give Texans even more gun rights already are ricocheting around the Texas Capitol.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland became the latest lawmaker Wednesday to file a gun-related bill with his proposal to allow Constitutional Carry — letting gun owners carry weapons openly or concealed without first obtaining a license — in Texas.

“It is time in Texas to restore our Second Amendment rights to their originally intended level,” Stickland, R-Bedford, said in a statement. “No Texan should have to pay a fee or take a class to exercise their right to bear arms.”

A similar proposal died last year in the Texas Legislature, as other measures to let licensed Texans openly carry their handguns through much of the state and conceal carry them on many college campuses found success.

Already a half-dozen gun related bills have been pre-filed for the 85th Legislature, which kicks off Jan. 10.

But political observers say they don’t expect firearms to dominate the 2017 session.

“Much of the oxygen for contentious issues will be taken up with other social issues or addressing high profile policy failures,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

“Second amendment activists got a lot of attention and several wins last session, so given the short session and limited political bandwidth, we are not likely to see these issues back in a major way.”

The 85th Legislature runs from Jan. 10, 2017 to May 29, 2017.

Here’s a look at gun-related bills that have already been filed:

Constitutional Carry: Stickland’s proposal to let Texans legally carry handguns without a license. HB 375

Gun show sales: State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, wants to make it an offense to sell a firearm at a gun show without using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or without a record of the sale. HB 259

Gun violence awareness: State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, proposes designating June as Gun Violence Awareness Month to increase overall awareness of gun violence. SB 222

Boosting firearm safety: State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, wants to reduce fees for any license needed for a “secure gun storage device” such as a safe or case or cabinet, and require the development and implementation of an firearms safety educational course to boost awareness about gun storage options and the safe handling of firearms. HB 111

Tax break on firearms and hunting supplies: State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, proposes exempting firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies from taxes from the first full weekend in September 2017 to the following Sunday. SB 133

Restricting physician questions about firearms. State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, wants to make it illegal for a doctor other than a psychiatrist to ask Texans about whether firearms are on their property, under their control or in their home. SB 104

Even though Rottinghaus said he believes gun issues may not generate huge attention in the Texas Legislature next year, he said anything could happen.

“Last session it didn’t become a major issue until several activists pushed to make it one despite resistance from many legislators,” he said. “The grassroots conservatives have largely shifted to other issues.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley