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Texas Lawmakers Approve Open Carry after Natural Disaster; Sneak Million-Dollar Safety Storage Campaign into Budget

By: Robert Davis

Texas lawmakers have approved two gun-related bills: one will legalize open carrying of weapons for up to a week after a natural disaster; the other will create a $1 million funding source for a public safety campaign on safe gun storage.

Open Carry after a Natural Disaster
Under Texas law, “it is a crime for a person to carry a weapon, including a handgun, if not on the person’s own premises or inside of or directly in route to the person's motor vehicle or watercraft.”

It is also a crime for a person to have a handgun in plain view in a motor vehicle or watercraft unless the person is licensed to carry a handgun and carries it in a shoulder or belt holster.

Both infractions are classified as a Class A misdemeanor and can levy a fine of up to $4,000.

Sen. Charles Creighton (R-Houston) said during a floor debate that “lawmakers felt a full week was necessary for gun-owners to evacuate an effected area and find a safe place to stay,” CNN reports.

The open carry bill, HB 1177, does not require shelters to admit gun-carrying individuals. Those shelters are allowed to make their own rules regarding handguns and other firearms, including storing them.

Supporters say the bill will add some much needed clarity to state laws regarding evacuation. Currently, state laws are silent regarding a gun owner’s rights to transport their weapon by means other than a personal vehicle to a shelter.

USA Today reports:

The bill's proponents countered that Texans needed to be able to evacuate with their firearms when disasters struck, especially after large-scale disasters such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, State Sen. Brandon Creighton, who sponsored the legislation, saw the risks of losing Texans' firearms as a potentially avoidable "sacrifice."

“Are we going to ask them to make another sacrifice when they already risk losing so much?” he said during Sunday debates over the bill.

As of the writing of this article, Gov. Abbott had yet to sign HB 1177 into law.

Safe Gun Storage
Lawmakers in Texas decided to buck the NRA's campaign against a safe gun storage bill by sneaking language into the state’s budget that will set aside a million dollars for a public safety campaign about safe storage.

Jose Nino notes at The Liberator why so-called “safe storage” legislation is so dangerous:

Pro-gun groups like Texas Gun Rights called on its members to demand that Governor Greg Abbott used his line-item veto to take down this backdoor gun control program. Safe storage laws have been a relatively popular gun control proposal implemented in numerous states. At first glance, this appears to be reasonable. Who doesn’t believe in the safe storage of firearms?

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Dr. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center points out that firearm storage mandates “effectively disarm citizens in a time of urgency.” In a study for the Journal of Law and Economics, Lott uncovered that over 300 more murders and close to 4,000 more rapes occurred each year in the states that mandated firearms storage.

In effect, these laws make it harder for people to defend themselves in high-pressure situations where every second is precious. A firearm storage mandate could put a person under attack at major risk if they cannot quickly access their firearm.
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Abbot does have line-item veto power and could strip the budget of the safe gun storage funds without killing the bill entirely.

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can reach him at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.