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Second Amendment Bills Take Heat In The House During Final Week of Texas Legislature

Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.
Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.

The Texas Legislature is in their final week of session, which means both chambers are working rapidly to pass bills. While working throughout the weekend, one of many bills related to second amendment rights took heat in the legislature.

Senate Bill 20 relates to the possession of handguns in hotels. The lawmaker presenting the bill to the House was Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant), who proposed to change the word “handgun” to “firearm” on Sunday. Democrats tried reversing that on Monday.

Handgun, as outlined in the Texas Penal Code, means “any firearm that is designed, made, or adapted to be fired with one hand.” While firearm means, “any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use.”

Hefner’s amendment passed on Sunday, and hoped to make firearm possession easier for those who travel with those sorts of weapons.

Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) proposed the amendment that would revise the changes to the bill’s language. In laying out the amendment, Turner referenced the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Hotel shooting in 2017, and how the possession of firearms in a high rise hotel led to the death of 60 people.

“The shooter used a hotel room as his bunker, as his headquarters to carry out this massacre on innocent American citizens,” Turner said. “So, as a result of this bill, if we don’t take on that amendment that Mr. Hefner put on yesterday, we’re saying it’s OK, you can take as many AR-15’s and sniper rifles into a high rise hotel room as you like and there is nothing anyone can do about it.”

Turner also attempted to appeal to representatives from big cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, who host large conventions, attracting people from around the nation. “The Secret Service is never going to let the President of the United States or a presidential nominee within a hundred miles of a high rise hotel in Texas,” Turner said.

Other representatives who vouched for Turner’s reversal of language included Rep. Ann Johnson (D-Houston). Referring to her experience as a human trafficking prosecutor, she mentioned favoring the allowance of handguns in hotels — but not firearms.

“I’ve been out on scenes. I’ve been grateful to have my investigator with a weapon. I’ve been grateful that my investigator has had the kind of weapons that would protect us if we get into a shootout,” Johnson said.

The amendment to change the verbiage back to “handgun” failed, and the bill passed under the term “firearm” instead.

The most controversial second amendment bill, “constitutional carry” or House Bill 1927, passed in the House over the weekend. The Senate must pass the same bill by Wednesday.

Got a tip? Email Haya Panjwani at hpanjwani@kera.org. Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw.

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Copyright 2021 KERA