Texas House gives final nod to school marshal, nullification bills


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE


Posted on May 6, 2013 at 6:11 PM

Updated Monday, May 6 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- The video featuring Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) shooting targets with a semi-automatic rifle plays up to Texas' gun-friendly attitude. 

It was shown at this weekend's National Rifle Association convention in Houston and posted online by the Washington Examiner's Charlie Spiering. Yet it's inside the Texas Capitol where that attitude becomes policy. 
On Monday, the Texas House of Representatives approved more than a dozen gun-related bills on third reading. The biggest is HB 1009, the so-called "school marshal" bill filed by freshman state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). 
"I have two little ones in public schools in Dallas," Villalba told KVUE Monday. "I drafted this bill the day after Newtown because of them. I wanted to find protections for them that I thought were able to actually prevent this kind of crime, but also with the understanding that I know parents have concerns. I think we've done that." 
The bill would allow schools to appoint employees, which could include teachers, as undercover school marshals. They'd receive law enforcement training and be certified to keep a gun at school in order to respond to an attack on campus. Each school marshal would be considered a law enforcement officer, and schools would be limited to no more than one for every 400 students.
"This is not about arming teachers," said Villalba, whose bill passed with bipartisan support. "This is about bringing more law enforcement into the classrooms to protect our kids." 
Lawmakers also passed bills allowing college students to carry concealed handguns on campus as well as legislation reducing the hours of training needed to get a concealed carry permit. 
Perhaps the most controversial of the gun-related items, HB 1076 would ban state agencies from enforcing any new federal gun laws, including background checks. The bill passed the Republican-led House on a largely party line vote Monday, but legal experts say the attempt to "nullify" possible future federal laws likely wouldn't pass the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court.
"That's absurd beyond the word absurd. I like the author personally but that's just pure political grandstanding," said state Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth).
Burnam says the bill sets up yet another fight between Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Obama administration, a scenario he says isn't exactly new. 
A member of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee which oversees legislation pertaining to the Department of Public Safety and concealed handgun licensing, Burnam says gun-related bills are often used to make political statements.
"I see ludicrous bills every session with members just wanting to be able to say, 'Hey look I did this improvement. I did that improvement,'" said Burnam. "When in fact they're not worth the paper they're written on, frankly." 
Most of the bills still await the approval of the Texas Senate, where the fates of issues such as campus carry seem uncertain. Meanwhile the enthusiastic pro-gun attitude seems to be formally adopted, at least for the time being.