Lawmakers defend the right to bear arms at work

News 8 Austin (Time-Warner Cable’s 24-hour Austin news channel) has a piece about how the Texas State Lawmakers are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the Capitol grounds and onto the House and Senate floors, but your average citizen doesn’t have that same ability.

“A citizen carrying a concealed weapon with a permit can come in to the Capitol and walk around and visit legislators at their offices,” Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said.

Citizens may be allowed to carry guns on to Capitol grounds, but their privileges are not the same as legislators. Members can and do carry guns on to the House and Senate floors, without restrictions. Citizens who visit those areas by way of the gallery have to pass through a metal detector and cannot enter with a gun.

“I don’t think that people who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon should be restricted from bringing a gun in to the gallery,” Hinojosa said.

Note: a Democrat legislator said that. 

What confuses me tho is a later comment by another lawmaker. Actually, let me splice this with her former comments:

It’s a known fact among state lawmakers that some of their colleagues carry guns at the Capitol.

Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) supports the concept and also supports an open-carry law.

“It’s a matter of safety for the members of the House,” Riddle said.

… [insert above comments from Sen. Hinojosa] …

Riddle disagrees and said it’s because the Department of Public Safety guards know the lawmakers but typically don’t know the public.

“The difference is pretty elementary…we are well known,” Riddle said.

I’m a little confused. First, I thought Rep. Riddle was in process of drafting open carry legislation. Maybe it’s just a rumor because until we see it, it’s vaporware.  But it does seem to conflict with her above statements.

But what I really don’t get is the reasoning that “we’re known” so that’s ok. Remember in 2006 when US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney wasn’t recognized by US Capitol Police? The guards may not always know you, and just because you might be a lawmaker doesn’t somehow automatically make you a person that won’t do something stupid or act in a rash manner.

Maybe the DPS guards and lawmakers don’t know all of the public, but I can tell you something they can know: what a Concealed Handgun License tells you about a person. If a Texas citizen holds a Texas Concealed Handgun license that means:

  • You have a clean criminal history, including military service and recent juvenile records
  • Not be under a protective order
  • Not be chemically dependent
  • Not be of unsound mind
  • Not be delinquent in paying fines, fees, child support, student loans, etc.
  • Have 2 sets of fingerprints taken, one sent to the FBI for checking
  • Multiple background checks, including with the FBI
  • Complete required training
  • Must be able to possess and/or purchase a firearm, which on the BAFTE 4473 form states
    • You cannot be under indictment in or convicted of any court for a felony or any crime where you could be imprisoned for more than one year
    • Cannot be a fugitive from justice
    • Cannot be an unlawful user of or addicted to any sort of controlled substance
    • Cannot be adjudicated mentally defective
    • Cannot have been dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces
    • Cannot be subject to a restraining order
    • Cannot have been convicted of domestic violence
    • Cannot have renounced your US Citizenship, and must be a US Citizen
    • Then of course go through yet another background check before you can purchase the firearm

So as you can see, if you hold a Texas CHL, you’ve got to live a pretty clean life: not just a clean life up until now to get the license, but if you want to keep it you have to continue to live a clean life. So if someone possesses a Texas CHL, you may not know much about them but the police don’t refer to them as the “I’m a Good Guy” card for nothing. A CHL holder has been vetted by the system as a good citizen, and they have to remain a good citizen to retain that CHL. This doesn’t mean CHL-holders are angels — they’re human and make mistakes like anyone else can. But take a look at the crime statistics of Texas CHL holders vs. the general public: here, here, and directly from TxDPS. Nothing is perfect, but the crime rates by CHL holders are vastly lower than the general populace.

To me, this difference is pretty elementary: you’re a Texas resident CHL holder, you’re one of the good guys.

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