After saying Tuesday that open-carry legislation didn’t have the votes to pass the Senate and didn’t reach the “level of prioritizing,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent out a news release Wednesday signaling that he might be reconsidering.
After noting that he had referred a bill to committee that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses by those with appropriate licenses, Patrick wrote, “Now that [Senate Bill] 11 has support and is moving towards passage we can focus on other Second Amendment issues, including open carry, which I have consistently supported.”
Patrick’s comment followed backlash from advocates for openly carrying guns, who objected to his statements at a Texas Tribune event Tuesday morning. “Second Amendment rights are very important, but open carry does not reach to the level of prioritizing at this point,” Patrick said at the forum. “I don’t think the votes are there.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, author of a bill that would lift the state’s handgun-licensing requirements, said he will be “doubling down,” not backing down.
While the fate of open-carry legislation is still unclear, campus carry appears to be moving along. The measure by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, has a total of 19 co-authors. That means it already has enough support under the Senate’s newly adopted rules to be brought to the floor for passage.
“Once passed we will forward the bill to the Texas House as quickly as constitutionally allowed,” Patrick said in a statement. “I am very pleased that the Senate is poised to cast this historic vote.”
A lawmaker has been provided a security detail after a tense confrontation in the Capitol with gun-rights activists.
Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, said he didn’t ask to have the Texas Department of Public Safety officers assigned to him and his family in Eagle Pass near the Mexico border. But he said he is glad they are around.
DPS declined to comment.
Nevarez’s colleagues had a lot to say about it Wednesday as several dozen lawmakers wore “I’m Poncho” stickers to show solidarity with the House member.
“I don’t think we should let anybody threaten us with physical force,” said Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who printed the stickers after Nevarez joked that his colleagues should wear “I’m not Poncho” signs to ensure their safety. “I think it definitely calls into question the fears that some people have. I see it as troubling.”
During an interview in his office, where a gun in a zipped leather case lay on his desk, Nevarez said, “It’s hard to assess your own security sometimes, to be able to tell what’s what.”
Down the hall, two plainclothes officers stood watch and later escorted Nevarez to the House chambers.
The detail was provided after members of a gun-rights group visited Nevarez’s office Jan. 13 — the opening day of the legislative session.
The lawmaker and Open Carry Tarrant County had a heated exchange, captured on video, after the activists asked whether he supported a bill that would let Texas residents carry handguns openly without a permit.
In the video, posted online, activists called Nevarez a “tyrant” and ignored repeated requests to leave his office, even putting their feet in the door to keep it from closing.
The next day, the House passed rules making it easier for members to get panic buttons in their offices that could summon help in an emergency. Telephones in legislators’ offices already have a direct connection to DPS, Nevarez said.
Kory Watkins, a leader of Open Carry Tarrant County, has done anything but back down amid criticism over the confrontation.
Watkins used social media Wednesday to urge supporters to contact their state lawmakers — especially Patrick — and let them know how strongly Texans feel about the legislation.
Staff writers Anna M. Tinsley and John Gravois contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle.