Wednesday, April 23, 2014
   
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Tripp Talk

Ralph's Shooting Range, Grayson County, Updated

Grayson County is North Texas.   The largest city is Sherman but much of Grayson County is rural.  For 38 years Ralph Williams has offered the community his 106 acre, family-owned land, to use as a shooting range.  There has never been an injury or an accident.

A while back a neighbor, not directly down range, and .8 of a mile away called the local Sheriff and District Attorney to complain about bullet holes in her garage door.  She was incensed and absolutely certain the bullets came from the range.

The Sheriff and DA drove out and viewed the damage from inside their vehicles, it was a rainy day, and they agreed with the neighbor.

When contacted Ralph Williams gladly met with the DA and unhappy neighbor to determine the problem and what course of correction should be taken.   He did not debate whether the holes were bullet holes, or whether they had actually come from his range or not.   He's a responsible person and good neighbor.

When asked to close down the range, Mr. Williams agreed to minimize activity with the exception of concealed handgun instructors with classes while he worked out a plan of action to enhance range safety.

This plan would include raising berms to near 20 feet, adding video cameras at the shooting line, adding range officers, and limiting the use of high power rifles.   The District Attorney suggest during a first meeting that if Mr. Williams made changes, he could expect everything to be "okay".

Finally this seems to be the case.  Sheriff Gary is removing a sign in his office telling deputies to stop anyone coming onto the range; as per the original agreement.  Ralph's Range will be open for handgun and limited use while Mr. Williams makes a plan to enhance range safety.

This is the only outdoor public shooting range in Grayson County!   The only place where 4-H shooting sports folks can go to practice, the only place to site in your deer rifle, the only place a CHL can do the shooting portion of their class at an outdoor public range.  

It still appears that every errant shot fired in Grayson County in half a decade is being blamed on Ralph's Range but that's past history.   Ralph Williams is committed to the future with the help of District Attorney Joe Brown, Sheriff Gary, Rep. Larry Phillips, and Senator Craig Estes.

 

Texarkana Gun Club Speaking Gig

This week I had the good fortune to be invited to speak at the regular monthly meeting of the Texarkana Gun Club, an IPSC club.  IPSC stands for International Practical Shooting Confederation; speed, accuracy, and souped-up model 1911's called "race guns".  

I was invited by the club's president, a 4th grade teacher by the name of Helen Humber and her husband Richard.   The club had never had a guest speaker at a meeting and read in the TSRA magazine that I'm glad to speak any place, any time, to perspective TSRA members.  

In turn I asked if I could invite their local State Representative,  A+ rated State Representative Stephen Frost, the author of HB 1301, the parking lot bill.   The club said, "yes" and Rep. Frost said, "yes" and the club's webmaster added the information to their website and did a press release to the local Texarkana newspaper.   The press release was picked up Monday on the front page, the meeting was on Tuesday, and instead of 20 or so club members we had 90 folks in the audience on Tuesday, April 27th at 7pm in Texarkana, Texas.   A great turn-out!

And what a fine group of folks, all were pro-gun (you never know who might show up!) and all were interested in what I had to say about TSRA and what Rep. Frost had to say about his committment to his district (HD 1) and his committment to protecting and allowing the legal possession of a firearm in employees' personal, locked vehicles when parked on an employer's parking lot.  

He made a committment to his constituents in Northeast Texas to get this issue taken care of next session so that Texans don't have to chose between their personal safety to and from the workplace and their job.  The legal contents of a person's car should not be the business of the employer.

Texas is a big state and it's a long drive to Texarkana from Austin but I managed to catch Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola and Rep.-elect David Simpson of Longview.  So I'm ready to go again!  

Thank you, Texarkana Gun Club!  Thanks for the hospitality and thanks for hosting Rep. Stephen Frost, truly one of the good guys.

 

 

Metal Detectors in the Texas Capitol and CHLs

When the Texas Legislature passed, what we think of as Concealed Carry Law, back in 1995  they debated the issue of carrying in the the state's Capitol building. Then-Senator Jerry Patterson did not think House members, Senate members and staff should be treated differently from other citizens of Texas. The Capitol belongs to the citizens of the State of Texas and CHLs should enter freely, well, almost freely.

No, the reason is not what you think!   There is no prohibition excluding CHLs from governmental meetings, and now you're running to find your student handbook or your home-version of the Texas Penal Code (you have one, surely!).   You want to correct me and you'll reference PC 46.035 but you never read far enough.  You probably stop with the prohibitions and don't read the reversal.  So look at PC 46.035 (i) and you'll see that churches, governmental meetings, some of those other seemingly prohibited locations are ONLY prohibited when posted with the PC 30.06 sign.  You know the sign in statute that actually applies to Texas concealed handgun licensees!    And by the way, it's the meeting that's prohibited, not the entire building anyway.  We only gave up courthouses, but I digress.

Anyway, back in 2007, Senator John Whitmire received death threats from a death row-inmate (smuggled cell phone).  As a result, metal detectors were placed in the Capitol at the two public entrances to the Senate Gallery on the third floor.  AND, the metal detector station included a life-size copy of PC 30.06.   NO, CHLs were allowed in the Senate Gallery but life went on as usual in the Texas House and in the rest of the building.

The detectors were operational during the 2007 legislative session and only manned when the Senate was in session.  It was annoying but to say we were busy in 2007 during session is an understatement.   When I was asked why the prohibition in the Senate and not in the House, my answer was usually that the House was better armed.   Yes, many House members carry on the House floor.  Rep. Ray Allen carried one in his boot and one in his desk.  

At the beginning of the 2009 session, the metal detectors and the sign showed up at the entrance to the House Gallery.   I never did hear the real reason for the addition and won't speculate.

Now THIS was a problem, although the metal detectors were only used when the House and Senate were were actually meeting and nothing extended to other parts of the building.    However, it was crazy to drive across Texas packing your legally licensed handgun to visit your state representative or state senator on Smith County Day or El Paso County Day only to be prohibited from going into the House or Senate gallery with your group to "stand and be recognized".   I knew of House members whose offices acted as "gun-checks".  

In forty-five days we expect metal detectors to be permanently installed at all four of the major entrances to the Texas Capitol.   It's been discussed for months but a nut-job with a revolver sealed the deal when he followed a staffer around, made advances and inquiries about her in Senator Dan Patrick's office, and then unloaded his revolver and his frustration on the south steps of the Capitol.   Not Good!  No one was hurt but still, not good!

So those in charge of the Administration Committees in the Texas House, the Texas Senate, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Preservation Board took a serious look with a schedule in mind.  

The use of metal detectors in the Capitol is not a totally new thing.   Post-911 they were present in the building.  In addition, remote entrances on the northside of the building and tunnels connecting to other buildings closed to the general public.  I hated that! Lobbyists are general public.  Only employees with their badges could use these less congested entrances.  Lobbyists and bus loads of school children were delegated to the main entrances and the metal detectors.  Ah but, there were no PC 30.06 signs! 

During this time, I asked a DPS officer manning the metal detectors about concealed handgun licensees.   He smiled and said, "No problem, they walk up, show us their license and we let them through".   Of course the metal detectors were only up for 6 months or so during session but I heard no complaints from anyone, including CHLs.

That process is what we expect this time.  That's what we've been told.   We also expect that CHLs will be directed to a "fast lane", the line used by Capitol employees who show their badges and are waived through.  All of this and NO PC 30.06 signs in the building, including during legislative session.  Maximum security with the least restrictions possible.

Personal safety is not always convenient, I still miss using those remote entrances but I'm please to be able to "carry" and walk across the Senate Gallery or go into the House Gallery.   Session hours are long and parking garages are remote.  I'll now have a choice to carry in the building or not.

By the way, TSRA and NRA are working together to underwrite low-cost and free CHL classes for House and Senate members and their staff.   The names of some of the attendees might surprise you. 

 

 

   

Streamlining the Concealed Carry Licensing Process

When legislation finally passed in 1995 allowing eligible Texans to acquire a concealed handgun license, the internet was new and email was not common.   Technology has changed the way we communicate and has changed our expectations for how quickly things should be done. 

In 2008-2009 when the Texas Department of Public Safety lapsed into a backlog status in the processing of new and renewed CHLs and began running months beyond the time listed in statute, everyone was up in arms in a manner of speaking.   We had experienced late licensing before but then the backlog was always due to an event such as with 911 or Hurricane Katrina, a short term spike in the number of new licenses.   This was not to be the case.  There would not be any catching up for a very long time and those attempting to obtain a license or renew an existing license would spend many hours on the phone trying to discover the status of their license.  This brought about phone calls to TSRA and phone calls to members of the Texas Legislature.   No one was happy and no one could get an answer.  

In years past TSRA attended meetings called by legislators to ask DPS about those random delays.  A common DPS statement would go like this: "We were a little behind, we're now caught up, there is no problem."   And we'd wait for the next delay as nothing in the process ever changed.  As a matter of fact when we mentioned "change", eyes would glaze over and defenses would go up.   Change was not possible.

Sp we began a list of possible changes that would streamline the process.   One such change happened several sessions back when we changed the term for license renewal from 4 years, birthday to birthday, to five.   This was actually less work for DPS.  This session we were able to remove the requirement for the TR-100 form, bought by instructors from DPS.   The form cost was $5 and instructors were required to order the forms.  Now it's a download on the DPS website.

The latest and greatest change is contained in the link below, a DPS publication available today.  After May 1st a licensee will not be required to provide pictures or finger prints for renewal.  

http://www.tsra.com/images/stories/general/chlbulletin04072010.pdf      Texas Department of Public Safety

It's a new day at the Texas Department of Public Safety with new administration.  Agency Director Steven McCraw has brought in a crew of folks with contemporary management skills.  Other changes designed to further streamline the licensing process are in the works! But for now, this is good stuff, very encouraging.  The turn around time for getting a concealed handgun license is 20-27 days.  

 

 

Run-Off Election Days and Explaining Two Special Elections

Today, April 4th, begins early voting for Run-Off elections still undecided from the March Primary.   Now the field of candidates has been whittled down to two and the first with over 50% of the votes is the winner.  Only one race is for a Statewide office, Texas Supreme Court, place 3.   Other candidates involved are all seeking office in the Texas House. 

Election Day for Primary Run-Off Elections is April 13th.  

For campaign information go to tsrapac.com and review the updated voter's guide as you consider your voting options.

There are currently two Special Elections called for May 8th.   In Texas House District 66, Rep. Brian McCall (R-Plano) has resigned his seat before the end of his term of office, December 31; requiring a special election to fill the vacancy.   This adds a layer of complexity and confusion as there is currently a Primary run-off; Rep. McCall did not file for reelection.    Check the TSRA voter's guide for further information and election dates for the run-off, followed in May by a special election.

The second Special Election is a State Senate seat, SD 22, which is the Waco area.   This seat was vacated by Senator Kip Averitt (R-Waco) due to health reasons.  This election will also be held on May 8th.

At this date filing has not ended for these two special election races; both to be held on May 8th.  Check the PAC web site for more information as it becomes available.

 

   

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Alice Tripp, Legislative Director

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