Texas Bill Allowing Open Carry of Handguns Stalls in Legislature

Texas lawmakers sidetracked legislation that would allow handguns to be carried openly by sending it to a conference committee instead of directly to the governor.

At issue is a minor wording difference between an amendment adopted in the House and Senate that prevents police from asking whether a person carrying a firearm has a permit. The House on Wednesday voted not to go along with the Senate wording, resulting in the measure being sent to a bipartisan conference committee.

The amendment was originally offered by House Democrats to prevent racial profiling by police. Police came to the Capitol in Austin on Wednesday to oppose the amendment, saying it would prevent them from doing their jobs.

With just days left in the regular Texas legislative session, the procedural hurdle means passage of gun legislation -- a priority for Republicans -- is less than certain because lawmakers may need more time to resolve their differences. Sunday at midnight is the deadline for lawmakers to reach an agreement on bills in conference committee. Monday is the regular legislative session’s final day.

A companion bill that allows students and faculty to carry guns on college campuses is also likely destined for a conference committee, since the House introduced an amendment late Tuesday night that Senate lawmakers are likely to contest.

The gun bills have been a top priority for Tea Party Republicans who won expanded majorities in both houses in November. Lawmakers were pressed from the first day of the legislative session in January when activists marched in front of the Capitol carrying AK-47s and waving “Come and Take It” flags.

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