This week marked the first week the Texas Legislature could take up, consider and vote out any measure that was not declared an emergency item by the Governor.
So what’s the first thing the Tea Party in the Senate wanted to take up? With state highways in debt, state infrastructure crumbling, and an unconstitutionally low level of public school funding at stake? Guns. Guns are the answer. Guns, guns, and more guns.
The Tea Party in the Senate took up legislation that would allow concealed handgun license holders to openly carry their weapon in public, because guns. The Senate also allowed the controversial campus carry legislation, that lets students with concealed handgun license holders carry their weapons (not openly) on campus. Sigh. I can’t think of anything bad that ever happened on UT campus involving a gun.
Perhaps the most egregious and upsetting part about this legislation, besides the fact that it sounds like a deadly social experiment that makes me wonder if every Republican thinks we are somehow in the Hunger Games, is the (lack of) process and protocol involved in crafting the legislation.
Okay, so guns on campus, that’s pretty terrible, but what if universities have an option to opt-out? That would empower the campuses to make their own decisions and alleviate a lot of concerns expressed by top public university officials. As Texans we understand how diverse our state is. We all know the University of Texas at Austin campus is not the same as Lubbock’s Texas Tech, or Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Right? Wrong. Guns. The answer is guns. Seems like any Tea Partier could at least support this basic concept of local control? Nope. Guns.
These and other local options came up on the Senate floor in the form of Democratic amendments to the bill. All of the Democratic amendments, including the amendment that would have allowed public universities to opt out of campus carry, were voted down by Senate Republicans in a 20-11 vote every time. The pattern was so consistent that Evan Smith, editor of the Texas Tribune tweeted:
It’s not the 2015 session. It’s the 20-11 session #txlege
— Evan Smith (@evanasmith) March 18, 2015
To make the motives even more questionable the author of the bill, Senator Brian Birdwell whose district includes Waco got the Baylor campus exempt (along with all private universities) from his campus carry bill. He argued that private property rights were at stake. Although he argued separately in this Houston Chronicle piece that carrying a weapon is a “fundamental right granted by the creator” trumps public school choice and safety, somehow that doesn’t translate to private campuses.
So while Senate Republicans were busy selectively deciding what our God given rights are and how we can use them, the House took up legislation that although controversial, had a much different outcome. Why? Because process and policy trumped politics (read, leadership).
The House passed a bill that enhanced a lot human trafficking crimes and permanently put more state law enforcement at (a small part of) the border to give the national guard (yes they are still at the border, sadly) a break. The bill has its flaws but the difference is those flaws were ironed out before the bill hit the floor on Wednesday. The amendments that were offered went up or down in different numbers and the final vote on the bill was 131-12, an unmistakable bipartisan number. When members of the legislature have the freedom to vote their districts and their conscience and are not subject to political litmus tests, voters win.
Sadly no one won in the Senate, except maybe open carry activists who have been pushing for this kind of thing. But wait, they’re unhappy because they think this bill doesn’t go far enough? No way! It’s almost like you can’t negotiate with them! What do you call that? Someone who has a weapon and refuses to negotiate? ¯\(ツ)/¯
I’ll leave you with this tweet from Houston Chronicle reporter Lauren McGaughy that references how much the additional cost to public universities is by allowing CHL holders to carry their weapons on campus (h/t to Senator Sylvia Garcia as well):
— Lauren McGaughy (@lmcgaughy) March 18, 2015