Proposed Texas bill would limit firearms at protests

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 7:28 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - One state lawmaker wants to prohibit guns at and near public demonstrations.

State Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, filed HB 791, which would make it a class B misdemeanor to display a firearm while “attending or within 500 feet of a public demonstration.”

The bill defines a public demonstration as “one or more person in a public place who are demonstrating, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding a vigil, or engaging in any other similar conduct that involves the communication or expression of views or grievances.”

A class B misdemeanor comes with a fine of up to $2,000 or up to 180 days in jail, or both.

Currently, in Texas, it is legal to openly carry long guns like rifles and shotguns at public demonstrations without a license and handguns with one.

Ed Scruggs, a board member at Texas Gun Sense, said he supports the bill.

He said firearms at protests and gatherings create a “very hazardous situation on the streets.”

“It makes it very very difficult for police to control and maintain safety,” Scruggs said.

He also said that the presence of guns at protests can frighten people and hamper public discussion.

Meanwhile, Emily Taylor, a lawyer at Texas LawShield, said the bill carries with it too harsh of a penalty and is written overly broadly.

“Public demonstration, they’re defining as one or more persons essentially doing something — expressing their views in public,” Taylor said.

She also said that Texans do not have an appetite for more stringent gun restrictions.

“Of course, we never want to chill the First Amendment, but we can’t chill the Second Amendment either,” Taylor said.

The bill is one of more than 70 gun-related bills filed already.

State lawmakers will meet in Austin on Tuesday for the first day of the legislative session.

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