AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - After pledging in his campaign to fight for open carry of handguns in Texas, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick now says it’s not a priority and doesn’t have the votes to pass.
The issue seemed to be gaining strong momentum for the 2015 session with support from Gov. Greg Abbott, Patrick and other top Republicans who swept into office in November. But Patrick doused the hopes of gun rights advocates with his remarks Tuesday at a forum hosted by the Texas Tribune.
Patrick, who has supported expanding gun rights in previous votes as a state senator, said “open carry doesn’t reach the level” of the Republican-dominated chamber’s other priorities, such as the state budget and public education.
Texas hasn’t allowed open carry of handguns since immediately after the Civil War. Several bills had been filed this session to allow open carry, ranging from requiring a license to letting anyone carry a handgun in public, also known as “constitutional carry.” While most have been filed in the House, at least two have been filed in the Senate.
Patrick’s campaign website, which is still online, notes he will “fight for open carry.”
But now that he occupies one of the most powerful offices in the state, Patrick walked back from that promise Tuesday.
“I don’t think there’s support in the Legislature to pass it,” Patrick said. “I haven’t had anyone bring it up to me.”
Patrick’s comments came a day after a small rally by open carry advocates at the Capitol, the second in as many weeks.
“I’m pretty disappointed in Dan Patrick,” said C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas and founder of Monday’s rally. “It’s lack of leadership from a guy who says he supports gun rights but won’t try to rally his own troops. If we don’t have the votes, prove it. Let’s hold them accountable.”
Patrick later posted a statement on his Facebook page that said he’ll let the Senate vote on an open carry bill if it has enough support. But it didn’t address his comment about the issue not being a priority.
One gun issue that does have broad support in the Senate is a measure to allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons into college buildings and classrooms. The issue sparked fierce debate in previous sessions but never became law.
The new campus carry bill has 19 co-sponsors, precisely the number needed under Senate rules to bring a bill up for a vote. The House would still need to take up the measure.
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