Pistol Packin’ Politicians

My long-standing policy of defending legislators is being tested by the Texas Legislature’s efforts to allow legislators and state-wide elected officials to carry concealed weapons to places where ordinary citizen with concealed carry permits cannot: bars, hospitals, churches, amusement parks, or correctional facilities. I believe that there are times when they must be allowed to be exempt from some of our laws because they are representing us. For example, members of the Texas Legislature are exempt from arrest for certain crimes during the legislative session and traveling to and from the session. This keeps law enforcement from an area from arresting representatives from another area in an attempt to silence the voice of competing communities. Sometimes we want to protect legislators from harassment from bureaucratic agencies as we protect our system of checks and balances. After all, you can’t check the excesses of the executive branch if they can punish you for doing it.

Yosemite Sam

HB 905 has been pushed because members of the Texas legislature feel they are subject to the same kind of risks as those already exempt from the concealed carry limits: judges, district attorney, and other legal officers involved in dealing with criminal elements.

A story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (“Texas legislators seek expanded gun rights for themselves“) outlines some of the debate. According to Dan Patrick, sponsor of the Senate version, “We go from one place to another — maybe five or six places in one evening for functions and events — and we may be faced with either leaving [guns] in the car or taking them inside and violating the law.”

This bill is the result of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It is true that elected officials can become the target for deranged individuals. However, deranged individuals shoot people every day. The shooting of Rep. Giffords was a national story because of who the victim and not because of the criminal or their motive. Further, the Congresswoman wasn’t the only person whose life was in danger that day. Everyone in that crowd was at risk.

Some legislators claim the bill would eventually lead to broader gun rights for all citizens because granting a special exception for legislators is a step toward removing limits on everyone. There are two problems with bill advocates taking cover behind broad Second Amendment arguments. (1) Granting an exception to an elite is the wrong place to start. If circumstances dictate that a Texan has need of self-protection then the exception should be granted based on those circumstances and not limited only to legislators.  (2) Most Texas seem comfortable with keeping guns out of churches, bars, etc. In any case, exempting legislators from these rules gives them less incentive to change it.

It is not clear to me where legislators are invited to go where their guns are not. Are legislators meeting constituents at bars, prisons, hospitals, or amusement parks? Those don’t seem to be likely venues (or stops along the way). Do they feel unsafe at those church meetings or sporting events? I’m sure that legislators move from place to place and that leaving their weapon behind is just one more thing to remember. However, that is true for every constituent attending those events and the responsibility to remember the rules of concealed carry should be no less for our legislators than it is for the rest of us. If we can remember the laws the people who wrote the laws should be able to.

I am reluctant to call the bill silly until hearing more from all sides. Senator Robert Deuell, another bill sponsor, is generally a reasonable guy. However, this bill seems to anger Texans on both sides of the gun issue and creates the impression of an elitist perspective.

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One Response

  1. Number of state legislators killed in the United States since 1814: 4

    Number of state legislators killed in the United States in the past 155 years: 1 (Tennessee State Senator Tommy Burks. Killed by his opponent)

    Total number of Texas State Legislators killed since Texas became a state: 0

    Number of Texas Citizens killed at Sash (TX) Assembly of God Church in 2005: 4 (plus the killer who committed suicide)

    Number of Texas Citizens killed at Wedgewood Baptist Church in 1999: 6 (plus the killer who committed suicide)

    So who is in the most danger?

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