Bud Kennedy

Was the Texas House tricked into unlicensed carry?

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, wearing a gun lapel pin, during an April 17 House debate on open carry
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, wearing a gun lapel pin, during an April 17 House debate on open carry AP

(This column and headline have been updated to reflect new comments Wednesday by Rep. Jonathan Stickland.)

Instead of open carry, Texas just went wide open.

Anybody openly packing a handgun is no longer a police concern, at least not under an amendment passed 133-10 Monday by the Texas House.

See somebody with a gun?

Don’t bother dialing 911.

That’s right. Under House Bill 910, police are barred from asking anyone “whether a person possesses a handgun license.”

Maybe even regardless of age.

Look, passing open carry wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. The idea was just to let nearly 1 million Texans with concealed-handgun licenses choose where they holster a gun.

But this amendment is a very big deal. If nobody ever has to worry about being stopped to show a license, that’s closer to the unlicensed-carry freedom promoted by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

“Where do you think they got the idea?” Stickland asked slyly Tuesday. That was after a leader of the Dallas-based Come and Take It Texas open-carry group wrote on social media: “We unintentionally just got unlicensed open carry.”

This bill does not go far enough to ensure the rights of our citizens,” said Stickland, an outright opponent of licensing.

“But I do love the amendment.”

Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, and Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, jointly offered the amendment, saying they meant to deter police harassment.

(On Wednesday, Stickland wrote on Twitter: “To be clear @MattRinaldiTX and Rep. Dutton should receive all the credit.” On Facebook, he wrote that he did not mean the amendment was his.)

At the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, Charley Wilkison sees trouble.

If police see anyone with a gun at 3 a.m., he wrote by email, they “find out why. … The officer needs to be able to ask.”

Stickland defended the lack of any age restriction: “That’d be like cigarettes. It’d be about whether you ‘look’ ” old enough.

Alice Tripp of the Texas State Rifle Association said that she likes the intent of the amendment as protection for licensees, and considered the concerns “extreme,” but that the wording needs a look.

Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, author of the 20-year-old concealed-handgun law, said he likes it because crooks don’t walk around showing their guns.

“If a person is acting erratic or threatening or obnoxious,” he said, “then police will have cause to say, ‘Sir, let’s talk.’”

Then Patterson added, “Let’s see if that stays in there through the Senate.”

That is not reassuring.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

817-390-7538; Twitter: @BudKennedy

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