The 2005 (regular) Texas Legislative Session is now over and it has been a very good session for gun owners and the Second Amendment. We passed a number of pro-gun bills and defeated all anti-gun bills. Although the Governor is going to call a Special Session to deal with school funding, and hopefully tax relief, the "call" will not include gun laws, so we will be fine. Alice Tripp will still keep an eye on all bills filed, but if anti-gun bills are introduced, she will make sure they will not go anywhere as they will not be within the scope of the "call."
Friends, ememies and the unknown:
We saw anti-gun bills filed by the usual suspects - Sen . Ellis, Rep. Burnam, and possibly others I canâ€™t recall at this moment - but we also had a couple of surprises. â€œAâ€? rated, pro-gun Senator Harris introduced SB173 that would have redefined â€œpremisesâ€? for schools. â€œAâ€? rated, pro-gun Rep. Hegar introduced a companion bill to SB173. Freshman Representative Hubert Vo introduced HB2633 that would have created a new statutorily defined â€œlaw enforcement facility.â€? All bills were bad bills for CHLâ€™s, and they were all constituent bills, i.e. not drafted by the authors. [More on this later.]
When Sen. Harris , Rep. Hegar and Rep. Vo filled their respective bills, we responded quickly, and apparently decisively, and the â€œauthorsâ€? of the bills never sought a committee hearing on the bills. By so doing, they effectively killed their own bills. (Once a bill is filed, it cannot be withdrawn.) Notices were posted here on TexasCHLforum, as well as other boards, including packing.org.
The reaction by some folks was to vehemently condemn the NRA and TSRA for giving Sen. Harris and Rep. Hegar an "A" rating and opine that â€œsomething must be going on.â€? While I can understand why someone would react this way, it also shows a lack of understanding of how the entire legislative process actually works. It is far different than we are taught in junior high civics or government classes! I am not taking a holier-than-thou approach; I would have thought the same thing, had I not been involved in the legislative process for 25 years.
[This paragraph is a re-print of my post from Jan. 30, 2005 on SB173.] I think a short discussion of how most bills get filed may be of help. The vast majority of bills filed are drafted by a Senatorâ€™s or Representativeâ€™s constituents, or by legislative counsel in response to constituentsâ€™ requests. With a legislature that meets for only five months every two years, there simply isnâ€™t enough time for the elected representative to do all of the research and bill drafting. The serious work on a bill starts when it is assigned to a committee. It is quite common to see a billâ€™s author offer significant amendments to his or her own bills and sometimes even kill them. The research, drafting, evaluating, amending, additional research and cross-checking bills is an on-going process throughout the entire legislative session, or until a bill is passed, killed, or dies in committee. While in a perfect world weâ€™d like to see all Senators and Representatives personally familiar with every word in, and the scope of, the bills they file, it does not and cannot work that way in the real world of time constraints. So much for the refresher course in Government 101. I apologize for boring those of you who knew this already, but it was a real learning experience for me when I first got involved 25 years ago.]
Although we never like to see anti-gun bills filed, especially by our friends, we can gain from this experience and use that knowledge in future sessions. When an proven anti-gunner like Sen. Ellis and Rep. Burnam introduce an anti-gun bill, we know quite well it was intentional, whether they or someone else drafted it. However, when a Senator or Representative with pro-gun track record as evidenced by a TSRA and/or NRA â€œAâ€? rating introduces such a bill, we should give them the benefit of the doubt, while efforts are underway to educate them on the full terms and scope of the bill and verify they are still on our side . While this is being done, we still ask that people call, fax and email their opposition to the bill, but treat the communication as you would one to a friend who may have made a mistake, not an enemy setting charges at the wall. Thankfully, this is the reaction that most folks had when they contacted Sen. Harris and Rep. Hegar and I sincerely appreciate you responding to our call for action. Unfortunately, there were some rather radical responses on packing.org with people calling for â€œanti-gun Senator Harrisâ€™â€? head on a platter during the next election! With the exposure a post on packing.org gets, imprudent or unfounded attacks on our friends can do irreparable damage during the next election. I posted a similar explanation on packing.org and most people seemed to appreciate what was actually going on. In the end, our friends came through for us and still deserve their â€œAâ€? ratings. In everything from military battles to disciplining our children, a measured, focused response is far more effective than a scortched-earth policy. I applaud the judgment with which the vast majority of our supporters responded to our calls for action.
BTW, Rep. Vo is a freshman Democrat from Houston who is also a CHL holder. His office said he supported us and wanted to be our friend. He too proved it by voting for pro-gun legislation and allowing his own HB2633 to die in committee.
Although this was a very good session, there were some disappointments. The employer parking lot issue is going to be another hill to climb; not as high as the initial CHL hill, but much steeper than 5 year renewals.
We need to clarify the definition of â€œpremisesâ€? to prohibit on-going abuses by certain unscrupulous bureaucrats who feel they are above the law and ignore both legislative intent and the express language of statutes.
Even though we achieved some â€œfee reliefâ€? for our friends in the military and seniors, and achieved an effective 20% overall decrease by extending the license period to 5 years, we still need to lower all CHL fees.
Something must be done about the cavalier attitude DPS has about meeting the deadlines for issuing new and renewed CHLâ€™s.
In my opinion, something must be done to streamline the entire licensing process to encourage more people to get their CHL. Although HB823 is a giant step toward proper recognition of the Second Amendment and the firearms rights protected by the Texas Constitution, it will also result in a decrease in the number of CHL holders, unless we take decisive action.
Rest and reloadâ€?
So, itâ€™s time to celebrate our victories, but only for a while. Some folks find it surprising, but TSRA planning for the 2007 Legislative Session will start in a very few weeks, and the NRA battle on the federal level never stops. But for now, Iâ€™m going to try to get a little shooting and reloading done. Iâ€™m even going to spend some time building my airplane. You folks do the same; we all deserve a little R&R.
I have said this more than once, but like telling your wife and kids you love them, it canâ€™t be said too often. Thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of freedom loving Texans. Everything you do makes a difference, from your faxes, calls and emails to elected representatives, to inviting friends, neighbors, co-workers and family to go to the range for a little shooting.
Preserving our constitutional rights is a war and just like a shooting war, the battle requires soldiers with different and varying experience and expertise. The grunt in the foxhole and the front line commanders can do their part only if someone back home is running the machines to manufacture ammo, while another soldier brings that ammo to the front; and oh yes, a little food would be nice also. When I go into a battle as an attorney, I want my opposition to fear me and what I can and will do to them and their case. But when I sit down at a conference table or testify in a hearing on behalf of gun owners, I know that no one is afraid of me or what I have to say. They fear the 4 million NRA members, 35,000 TSRA members and 100 million gun owners lined up behind me. I am but a mouthpiece, you are our strength. It is an honor to serve with you.
May the Lord continue to bless our great Nation, this State, and all of you - my comrades in arms.