The Austin Chronicle

Bill of the Week: Or, How Not to Pass Open Carry

By Richard Whittaker, January 30, 2015, 1:31pm, Newsdesk

Ever wonder how a bill dies? When it comes to open carry in Texas, it seems that one pro-gun group has been more pivotal in the collapse of a key piece of the Second Amendment advocacy agenda than the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence could ever hope to be.

The Texas Concealed Handgun Association is tracking a whole stack of bills that would make it easier to carry guns, Bowie knives, pepper spray, heck, everything short of a halberd in public (weirdly for a pro-gun group, they seem to be in favor of everyone but school board trustees and district attorneys to be armed).

Their main goal this session was, clearly, open carry. Going into the session, it seemed like a slam-dunk, no-brainer, and the vessel for its passage was House Bill 195 by rat exterminator turned bullish Second Amendment advocate Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Plano. The measure would not simply extend the concealed handguns license rules to open carry, as other bills have proposed, but would be a full "constitutional" open carry law – making having a six-gun on your hip, without regulation, the natural default. His bill would not just allow open carry of guns, but of clubs too, turning Texas into the Zardoz/Baseball-Furies-segment-of-Walter-Hill's The Warriors hybrid of which we have all dreamed.

Unfortunately for Stickland and the TCHA, enter the now infamous Open Carry Tarrant County, which first made headlines by visiting lawmakers and being so – let's say impolite – that video of their encounter with Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, went viral. The end result is that now even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he doesn't have the necessary votes to get the bill out of the Senate (cue panicky meeting in his office yesterday to smooth things over yesterday with OCTC); reps have panic buttons in their offices; Nevarez and his family have security details; and die-hard gun-rights Republicans in the House are wearing "I'm Poncho" stickers.

Add onto this the fact that OCTC supporters have been hanging around the Legislature with holsters containing plastic bananas instead of actual guns. The visual symbolism of banana skins cannot be lost on anyone at this point.

So now even former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson – the man that got concealed carry passed in this state – has said the bill is doomed “because of the Tarrant County open-carry group’s obnoxious behavior."

An aside: There's an old conspiracy theory in professional wrestling. When WCW hired former WWF head writer Vince Russo, they thought they were getting a genius. Instead, he did such an abysmal job that folks started believing that WWF boss Vince McMahon had deliberately sent him over to torpedo the opposition with his ineptitude. Wonder if that's how TCHA's board feels this week about OCTC.

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