April 02, 2006
About the last thing I care to say regarding Tom DeLay's concealed handgun license

I didn't expect the whole DeLay-loses-gun-license thing to be more than a one-day giggle, but there's something in this Chron editorial from Friday that bugs me.

Like those erstwhile DeLay allies in Washington, the author of the Texas concealed weapon statute favors changing the law to accommodate DeLay's wishes. Land Commissioner and former state Sen. Jerry Patterson told the Chronicle's Eric Hanson that the requirement that persons awaiting trial lose their right to carry guns "is clearly not rational, not called for." He favors eliminating the provision, arguing that it violates the presumption of innocence defendants deserve and likened the right to carry a concealed firearm to freedom of speech.

According to Patterson, the only reason the provision providing for license suspensions was put in the bill was to win support from lawmakers who were nervous about the prospect of accused felons carrying handguns.

The Chronicle shares their trepidation at the prospect of people accused of serious wrongdoing retaining their right to tote concealed weapons. Is there no limit to legislators' willingness to accommodate DeLay? DeLay, like all citizens, deserves equal treatment under the law but does not merit preferential treatment.

Look, Patterson is arguing for a principle here, not a particular. From my conversation with him, I feel confident in saying that while DeLay's situation is an impetus for him to speak on this topic - it is in the news now, after all - it's not what motivates him. He believes the law as written is too broad in allowing people who have been merely indicted for a crime - people who are still innocent of that crime in the eyes of the law - to have their concealed handgun licenses revoked. He regrets that as the author of that bill that he didn't do more to protect what he sees as a fundamental right, and he believes it's the Lege's job to fix that if they so choose.

That's pretty much it, and I have to say as one who believes as strongly in the rights of criminal defendants as Patterson does in gun rights that I think he's correct. Patterson isn't arguing for the provision to revoke a CHL to be removed - he specifically said that he supported revocations for "assaultive" felony indictments - just for it to be rethought and for the requirements to be tightened as a result. Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is about that.

We probably wouldn't even be talking about this if DeLay had bothered to send a representative to the initial court hearing on his CHL in January. He lost his license by default because he didn't show up to contest the DPS petition to revoke. You'd think a guy who cares that much about his right to pack heat would have marked that appointment on his calendar and asked one of his phalanx of attorneys to file a writ or something, but he didn't. So, he's the example close at hand when Patterson speaks on the topic. Don't mistake that for Patterson advocating on DeLay's behalf. It's clear to me at least that that's not what he's doing. Agree or disagree with his position, but let's all get straight on what it is first.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 02, 2006 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

He didn't show up for the hearing? Then, unless he didn't receive notice of the hearing, his appeal is toast.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on April 2, 2006 5:23 PM

I think Patterson is basically right.

Some accusations - gun crimes themselves, as well as assault - might reasonably result in automatic suspensions, even if the charge is a misdemeanor. But for most crimes, the judge should be able to make the call, rather than it being automatic.

Posted by: Mathwiz on April 7, 2006 2:34 PM