House approves slew of gun laws
May 6, 2013 at 10 p.m.
AUSTIN (AP) - The Texas House gave final approval on Monday to a slew of gun laws designed to protect 2nd Amendment rights, and gave provisional passage to one that would ban state and local police from working with federal authorities on new gun control regulations.
The most contentious measure would allow Texas college students to carry firearms on campus. The bill would allow students who are 21 or older and have a concealed weapons permit to bring their handguns to class unless a university chooses to forbid what has become known as "campus carry."
Emotions flared over a similar proposal in 2011 before it was ultimately defeated. Under the bill carried by Republican state Rep. Allen Fletcher, colleges and universities can still choose to prohibit guns. But a student caught with one on campus would not be breaking the law. The House on Monday easily gave final approval to this latest attempt by a 102-41 vote.
The House also overwhelmingly approved a bill that attracted national attention when it was introduced by first-term tea party Republican Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands. It would nullify within state borders any federal laws banning assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, or expansion of background checks for firearms owners - even though doing so would almost certainly violate the U.S. Constitution.
Another bill would punish by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine police officers or government officials who try to enforce federal firearms limits in Texas. The House also passed a measure reducing penalties for permit holders who accidentally show a concealed handgun.
A separate measure that passed 136-0 reduced concealed handgun license fee for police officers, military veterans, national and state Guard members and even some Criminal Justice Department employees from $70 to $25, despite costing the state up to $2 million in lost revenues.
All of the bills now move to the Senate for a vote, with some more likely to get final approval than others.
Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, introduced another bill Monday that would only ban local and state police from working in support of federal authorities to enforce laws that do not also exist in state law. If a police department helps a federal agency enforce a gun law not approved by the state Legislature, then the local authorities would lose their state funding.
"We're not going to enforce gun laws that we don't think are in the best interest of the state of Texas," Krause said. "We are only dealing with a narrow universe where federal official are trying to deputize state and local officers to enforce federal laws that are not part of the law of Texas."
Opponents said it would put local, county and state law enforcement in a difficult position of choosing between lending assistance to federal agencies and receiving state money. The House gave that bill preliminary approval on a voice vote.