Police stops among questions raised at gun law hearing

Police stops among questions raised at gun law hearing

AUSTIN -- Open carry has been in effect for less than a month, and those on both sides of the issue say there's been confusion when it comes to parts of the law.

At a committee hearing inside the Texas Senate chamber, cameras rolled as lawmakers asked for updates on how the new gun laws are going. 

"I think there's still a lot of fear out there and confusion," Texas Gun Sense executive director Andrea Brauer told KVUE Tuesday. Brauer was among those present who hoped to clear up confusion such as when police are allowed to ask someone open carrying if they're licensed.

"I've read that some are saying we are not allowed to ask and I think that endangers public safety," Brauer testified before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs.

"We know people drive without drivers licenses," testified Rick Briscoe, legislative director of Open Carry Texas. "It's against the law, but you can't arbitrarily and randomly stop people to ask, 'Do you have a drivers license, sir?'"

Briscoe asked lawmakers to consider lowering license fees and suggested eliminating licenses altogether. "Open Carry Texas advocates the right of a citizen who is not prohibited by law to own a gun to have the right to carry one," Briscoe told the committee, "And we would urge everyone to think about that."

Central Texas Gun Works owner and instructor Michael Cargill hoped to clear up another area of the law which prohibits handguns during school-sponsored activities."There's a school field trip downstairs right now," Cargill said. "So that's a school sponsored activity. That means that everyone that's in this building right now are committing a felony and they should take their guns and put them in the vehicle."

The longtime gun rights advocate told KVUE, "I think the implementation is actually going great. We haven't had any serious problems at all. Everyone's following the law, and I think campus carry's going to be fine once it goes into effect August first."

"There hasn't been a lot of incidents, thankfully, throughout the state with open carry. There has been a lot of confusion certainly by businesses," said Brauer, whose organization part of a coalition of activists letting private businesses know their rights. She argues the state has the same obligation.

"People don't know if they're allowed to prohibit in their business, what signage they would have to put up or if they have to accept people open carrying because we get that answer a lot too," said Brauer.

Earlier Tuesday morning, public university leaders assured lawmakers they're on track to implement campus carry in August. State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) asked chancellors from the University of Texas, University of Houston and University of North Texas whether parents or students have discussed opting instead for private universities, which aren't subject to the campus carry law.

"As for the parents we haven't heard," said University of Houston system chancellor Renu Khator, "But as I mentioned in my testimony, the faculty, staff have expressed serious concerns. Some have said that they'll leave the university."

"I have gotten a few e-mails from concerned parents and faculty members about the implementation of this law, but I don't think we'll really understand the impact of it until we have to implement it this year," offered University of Texas system chancellor William McRaven, who promised the law would be followed.

"What I'm asking the faculty members is give us the opportunity to show that we can address their concerns in a reasonable manner so that they do not feel like it is either threatening their ability to have a robust debate or their safety," McRaven told the committee.

Lawmakers warned universities against imposing too many restrictions. Committee chair state Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) said that includes treating students who do carry differently.

"So I hope as you discuss these policies, we don't let a faculty member make someone who has a concealed license sit in the back of the class or are pointed out in some way," cautioned Huffman.


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