We all got a good schadenfreudistic laugh out of Tom DeLay’s gun woes, but I was curious about the provision in that law that called for the suspension of a concealed-carry license (CCL) for a person under a felony indictment. I sent an inquiry to then-State Senator, now Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and wound up having a pleasant chat with him about it. I’m not the world’s best note-taker, but here’s what I got from the conversation:
– While the CCL bill was passed in 1995, there had been previous attempts to do so going back to 1989. A gutted version of the bill was passed in 1993 that called for a nonbinding referendum, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Ann Richards. The suspension requirement that tripped up DeLay is something that was a part of the bill all through its history, and he agreed when I suggested that it came from a “tough on crime” mindset that was more than what was needed for these purposes.
– Many people and groups played a role in putting together the bill – Commissioner Patterson cited DPS as having a big part in it. Patterson’s goal in 1995 was to remove what he thought were “onerous” provisions from the earlier attempts that would have placed a bigger burden on potential handgun carriers. The amount of training required for a CCL was an example of such a provision.
– Patterson eventually wrote the bill himself longhand on a legal pad in his kitchen. He said he tried to balance the concerns everyone had in order to get a bill that could pass.
– He believes that in the end, he gave up too much in getting that bill passed; he believes that he’d have still had the votes to pass it even if he’d held firmer on some of the concessions he made to this person or that’s need to position himself politically on the bill.
– The aformentioned suspension-for-felony-indictment provision is an example of something he’d have done differently if he had it to do over again. While he would have included that for “assaultive” felonies, he did not think that the broad-based suspension requirement was fair. We agreed that the only reason it’s getting attention now is because of the high profile of Tom DeLay.
I want to add that I opposed this bill in 1995. I thought it would lead to more opportunistic gun violence. That has not happened, a point Patterson makes in an op-ed he wrote (PDF) to commemorate the law’s tenth anniversary. My thinking on the issue of guns and gun control has evolved over the years. I found that I could not reconcile my strong belief in personal freedom for things like reproductive choice with a belief in the need to restrict gun ownership. So, I changed. I can’t say I like guns, but as with abortion, that doesn’t mean I think someone else should be forbidden to have access to them.
My thanks to Jerry Patterson for his feedback on this.