SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Several proposed new gun laws await the new Texas legislature when it opens next month, including one to allow open carrying of handguns in public and another providing a sales tax holiday for firearms purchases.
The Republican-dominated legislature will become even more conservative due the party’s landslide win in the November election, with many members pledging to expanding firearms rights in the state often seen as an incubator of conservative policies nationwide.
Proposed measures would ban cities and counties from restricting gun rights and try to have any new federally imposed restrictions on firearms declared illegal in Texas. Lawmakers are also looking to prohibit schools from punishing students who fashion their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun.
“We have so many gun bills that have been filed that we can’t have anything but an open carry law passed next year,” said C.J. Grisham, founder of the activist group Open Carry Texas.
The group has been pushing for the unlicensed open carrying of handguns, pointing to laws in Texas and elsewhere that allow for the unlicensed open carrying of long guns such as rifles.
Current Texas law grants citizens the right to carry concealed handguns with a permit.
An open carry measure seems likely with nine pieces of legislation up for consideration and Governor-elect Greg Abbott, a Republican who takes office in January, saying he supports the move.
There has been some push back after members of Open Carry Tarrant County were criticized for endangering public safety by staging rallies this year where armed members took to streets, stores and restaurants seeking support for their cause.
In response to a wave of school shootings across the United States, some conservative Texas lawmakers advocate measures that would make it easier for teachers and administrators to carry weapons, arguing that this is a way to prevent violence.
A so-called “Pop-Tart bill” to bar punishment for children who make firearms inferences has attracted much attention. It was inspired by the case of a Maryland school that suspended a second-grader for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.
“The bill is a proactive effort to prevent even the chance of a Texas student losing valuable instruction time due to an act of non-disruptive, non-threatening behavior by a child,” said State Representative Ryan Guillen, a Democrat sponsoring the bill.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Tom Heneghan)