*Update* Lawmakers reach agreement on open carry bil
Texas state lawmakers negotiated on Thursday a final version of a bill allowing licensed open carry of handguns, easing concerns of police and priming it for a vote that would send it to Gov. Greg Abbott.
House and Senate negotiators said they stripped out language that sought to bar police from demanding to see the license of someone carrying a gun if they had no other reason to stop them.
That provision had passed both Republican-dominated chambers by large margins, but later prompted angry rebuttal from law enforcement around the state. Police called it a "game changer" that would endanger officers and the public.
A final vote could come as early as Friday. The legislative session ends Monday.
Open carry has been one of the major gun-rights issues of the legislative session, and Abbott has pledged to sign it into law. Texas allows concealed handguns, but has banned open carry since the post-Civil War era.
If passed, Texas would be one of the last states to allow some form of open carry, but would be the country's largest to do by population.
The session's other gun-rights bill, allowing concealed handguns in college classrooms, lurched toward resolution with an agreement to let schools create "reasonable" gun-free zones. The last point to resolve is whether to force private universities to allow weapons.
This is an update to a story from the Associated Press. The previous version is as follows:
Governor Gregg Abbott found himself Thursday morning surrounded by several southeast Austin school kids. The gathering was part of a ceremonial signing of new Pre-K legislation. While the governor was more than happy to add his name to that bill - he is still waiting for an Open Carry Bill to be sent to his desk.
"Both the House and Senate are working on this issue, as we speak and they will continue to work on it, and I will await to see what they will do on it," said Governor Abbott.
Gov. Abbott's wait and see approach toward HB 910 comes after lawmakers decided not to send the legislation to him just yet. The delay was done to work out an issued raised Wednesday by members of a law enforcement coalition.
"If the legislature wants to allow licensed gun owners to carry guns openly, that's fine. We've probably got half of our members who have heartburn about that, and half of them are totally in support of it," said Kevin Lawrence with the Texas Municipal Police Association.
The group objects to an Amendment to prevent police from questioning people who carry weapons out in the open.
"So we are ok with the Bill as it sits, but not with this Amendment, this Amendment is a game changer. If the Amendment is on it, it needs to be Vetoed, the whole Bill needs to die," said Lawrence.
State law already allows gun owners to walk around with long rifles slung over their shoulders. Supporters of the Open Carry Bill say it should be no different for handguns.
On Facebook Thursday morning, gun rights advocate Kory Watkins called for the arrest of every state lawmaker who voted against Open Carry. He wrote they should be charged with treason and hung from the tree of liberty.
The rhetoric is similar to a video Watkins posted in February.
"We should be demanding these people give us our rights back...or it's punishable by death. Treason. Do you understand how serious this is? Texas? We need to start sticking more than foots in doors...ok," wrote Watkins in his post.
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) Killeen, who was among those voting t to send Open Carry to a Conference Committee would not say if he considered Watkin's post a threat.
"I'm not just going to go off into that, people that say radical things don't deserve a response," said Aycock.
A Bill allowing concealed handguns on college campuses was also sent to a Conference Committee. Key issues to be ironed out include schools carve out large gun-free zones and letting private schools set their own gun rules.
House and Senate negotiators have until the legislative session ends Monday to agree on a compromise.