State lawmakers consider tweaking Open and Campus Carry

A state hearing was held Tuesday regarding confusion about the new "open carry" and "campus carry" gun laws.  It's expected to prompt some changes -- when the legislature reconvenes next year.

On January 1st, the state of Texas joined the majority of other states in the nation allowing some form of open carry. The committee was told - predictions of Wild West chaos by pistol packing gun advocates have yet to materialize, but some problems have emerged requiring their attention.

The senate hearing opened Tuesday morning with Chairman Joan Huffman (R) Houston making one thing clear.

"As I said we are not here to debate the merits of the law, the law is the law and it’s been implemented,” said Senator Huffman.

With that in mind, the leaders of all the public universities in Texas updated efforts to draft individual campus carry policies- which have to be in place by September.

“And you allowing us to have flexibility is productive,” said Robert Duncan with the Texas Tech University System.

UT Chancellor Bill McRaven, who originally opposed the legislation, told the committee about the challenge he gave those working on policies for his 14 campuses.

“Follow the law, focus on safety and strive for a campus environment in which students, staff and faculty can continue to focus  ...  on their studies, research and work with minimal distraction,” said McRaven.

A&M Chancellor John Sharp told the committee he doubts his dorms and classrooms will be designated gun free zones, but he does expect bans in high risk research and bio labs.

"This has nothing to do with whether someone would get shot, but it has to do with the negligent discharge, that may release into the atmosphere something that’s worse,” said Sharp.

According to the District of Columbia and five states do not allow guns to be carried in the open. Texas is among 15 that allow it -- with a permit, while 30 other states don’t require a permit at all to carry a gun in the open.

The Senate Committee hearing also focused on some gray areas with the law which have cause confusion with enforcement.

There's debate over whether or not police can ask for proof of license.  And concern that a school field trip to the state capitol could make any location a gun free zone.

"The mere fact that those kids are in this building for a school sponsored activity means every license holder thetas in this building right now is committing a felony,” said Austin gun store owner Michael Cargill.

Other areas that may require some legislative teaching include; how the city of Houston tried to designate its zoo as a gun free zone because kids go to it.

Clarification was requested for who has the authority at a business to give verbal notification that it’s a gun free zone- a staff person or the manager.  And if a permit holder can get in trouble for having his gun on a car seat.

Modifying - or consolidating the large signs that designate gun free zones also came up for discussion. State lawmakers were also urged to authorize a uniform statewide education program -- to help address lingering questions about open carry.


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