New laws in action

Gun regulations met with mixed reactions

The Texas Legislature passed more than 800 new laws that went into effect Sept. 1, ranging from lifting a ban on lemonade stands to letting churches decide if they want to allow firearms on their premises.

Some of the bills are more controversial than others. Among them are the handful of gun regulations.

The bills became law two days after a horrific mass shooting in Odessa. It was the second mass shooting within a month in Texas.

The new regulations have drawn both praise and criticism for loosening gun laws. Governor Greg Abbott has been criticized by Democrats in the legislature for not calling a special session to address the issue.

Richland government professor Patrick Moore said 63 out of 66 Democratic members unanimously agreed to sign a letter asking the governor for “a special session to take action on guns.”

Their focus was to act on red flag laws and extended background checks, according to Moore. The hope is stranger-to-stranger gun sales would be subject to background checks.

Nine bills in the House and two in the Senate pertain to new gun laws.

HB 121 protects gun owners. Establishments that restrict guns on their premises can give gun owners verbal notice if they happen to walk into a prohibitive area unknowingly. If the gun owner leaves when asked, no crime has been commited.

HB 1791 expands HB 121. According to the Texas Municipal Lead, it allows the attorney general to investigate the improper posting of a trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun sign (also known as a 30.06 sign) by providing: (1) that the attorney general can investigate the improper posting of the sign and (2) makes minor changes to the complaint process to initiate an investigation. It’s update to already existing regulations.

HB 1177 excuses unlicensed handgun owners from concealed carry laws after the declaration of a natural disasters. It gives gun owners 168 hours to remove a weapon from their property without facing charges.

Disaster shelters, on the other hand, are given the choice of whether or not to allow evacuees to carry firearms. All gun owners must abide by the shelter’s rules.

HB 1143 and 1387 relate to handguns on school campuses. HB 1143 allows licensed gun carriers to keep firearms in their vehicles parked in school parking lots.

HB 1387 allows public, private and charter schools to have more than one marshal on each campus. The law is in effect during the 2019-2020 school year.

HB 2363 covers how foster parents are required to store firearms. Foster parents are allowed to own them. Their guns, however, must be properly stored in a safe or other protected storage unit in combination with any other weapons that may be of danger to children.

HB 3503 requires county jailers to receive firearm training. Counties without training programs must develop them. The requirements of the training programs are outlined in the bill.

HB 4428 outlines changes in the application process and expiration dates of concealed gun carrying licenses. Those who apply for new or renewed licenses are required to donate to a veteran’s assistance fund.

HB 302 details how to properly carry and store firearms and ammunition on private property. Two senate bills were also approved.

SB 535 sent a wave of panic through some communities. The bill clarifies the rights of places of worship to determine whether or not firearms are allowed.

Some interpreted that as an effort to prohibit firearms on religious grounds. The law allows worshippers to carry weapons inside as long as the church has not posted restrictions against it.

Finally, SB 741 restricts property owners from prohibiting authorized figures to carry guns onto their premises.

The bills have been received with confusion by some and controversy by others. Those who find that the laws promote responsibility have approved.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America praised the new laws. Some have praised Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Others disagree.

The San Antonio City Council has called for a special session of the legislature to review the new laws and pass new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.

Gov. Abbott has refused to call a special session as of press time.

Moore said, “There’s virtually no chance that’ll happen. He is opposed to it.”

Gov. Abbott did respond with an executive order on Sept. 5. The response was published in response to the Odessa, Santa Fe and El Paso tragedies.

“This one struck me as weird,” said Moore. The executive order signed by the Secretary of State, the governor and the executive clerk to the governor was three pages long.

It acknowledged mass attacks and called for action via the governor’s nine new orders, some of which weren’t met with approval.

“This is nonsense stuff. It’s window dressing,” said Moore.

As of press time, it has been the only statement issued from the governor.

For additional new laws not covered in this story, readers can visit https://legiscan.com/TX/legislation/2019 and check under the ‘passed’ and ‘vetoed’ tabs to review bills that have become new law.