My memory may be faulty, but I donâ€™t recall any opposition to either bill. The House committee did ask some clarification questions, but we had a number of law enforcement agencies sign in in support of the bills, but their representatives did not testify. In short, not a single person seemed to be opposed to preventing a New Orleans-style wholesale gun confiscation during times of emergency. Indeed, some committee members even commented that people need their guns most during such times when law enforcement is non-existent.
With that background - now enters Charlie Wilkerson, Legislative Director for CLEAT. An article in the Austin American Statesman (Austinâ€™s perennial anti-gun liberal publication) was quite positive on the â€œEmergency Powersâ€? bills. But I guess it was too stressful for CLEAT to resist taking an anti-gun stance for too long. In spite of sweeping support from citizens and law enforcement, both on the state and federal level (a federal law has been passed preventing confiscation), CLEAT fears protecting citizens rights to have firearms with which to defend themselves â€œwould dilute local law enforcements' jurisdiction and the use of officers' discretion.â€?
Well Charlie, the honest citizens of New Orleans got a good taste of officersâ€™ discretion. As one woman testified, â€œThey didnâ€™t offer me any food, they didnâ€™t offer me any water, they didnâ€™t offer me a ride out, they just took my gun and left me in the dark.â€? I guess the Los Angeles County Sheriffâ€™s Deputies were exercising their discretion when they tackled and woman and drug her from her home for the offense of holding a revolver by itâ€™s back-strap with the cylinder open. And I guess former New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley and Mayor Ray Nagin were exercising their discretion when they denied that the NOPD and officers from all over the country confiscated legally possessed firearms from defenseless citizens, until the local office of the BATFE ratted them out. And I guess Mayor Nagin was still exercising his discretion when he thumbed his nose at a federal judge in the NRA lawsuit and found himself in contempt and his city obligated to pay attorney fees to the Plaintiffs. No Charlie, we donâ€™t need unbridled discretion and broad jurisdiction during times of emergency when normal checks and balances are non-existent. Texas law enforcement agrees, thatâ€™s why they support these bills. These bills are not addressing wrongful seizure of a firearm(s) during normal times when a person still has police protection, the opportunity to buy or borrow another gun, and access to law enforcement administrative remedies or to an attorney. No, these bills deal with the worst of times; when people are truly on their own and the only protection they have is their firearm.
Mr. Wilkerson also said â€œ. . . police need to weigh the public's right to own firearms against the need to keep the peace in times of emergency." Sorry Charlie, the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution and the Texas Legislature does the weighing, not the police. If the Austin American Statesman quoted him accurately, then this statement alone should be pause for concern for everyone, whether or not they wear a badge. (As I previously noted, law enforcement supports these bills.) The words that come out of this man's mouth and his pen are both amazing and frightening. It is baffling that CLEAT would keep him as their Legislative Director, unless of course, he accurately represents their position. Remember this when the phone rings and CLEAT is asking for a donation.
Here is Mr. Wilkersonâ€™s full comments:
Charley Wilkison, legislative director for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said he is concerned that the legislation would dilute local law enforcements' jurisdiction and the use of officers' discretion. He said police need to weigh the public's right to own firearms against the need to keep the peace in times of emergency.
"There's a balance," Wilkison said. "We're watching to make sure this bill doesn't tip that balance."