Updates at the bottom of the article.
Gun Rights vs. Gun Control has been a hotly contested debate over the last few years and Texas has been on the front lines of that battle. Ironically, despite the public perception of Texas as a gun slinging cowboy state, the gun laws in Texas have more in common with well-known gun control states like New York. This legislative session in Texas has seen the most movement towards gun rights since the state passed concealed carry with a Concealed Handgun License in 1995.
The 84th Texas Legislature began Jan. 13th with a huge gun rights advocacy push for Constitutional Carry in Texas. Citizens filled the halls of the Capital, delivered thousands of petitions and visited each and every Representative’s and Senator’s office. The fervor for gun rights continued, primarily driven by grassroots efforts, until an open carry bill made it to committee hearings. House Bill 910 and Senate Bill 17, were both a far cry from Constitutional Carry, but they did make it to open hearings. Each would only allow open carry of handguns for license holders, but yet Texans came out in droves to testify at the open hearings in the House and the Senate committees. The vast majority either supported the licensed open carry bills or testified that they needed to be amended to make them constitutional carry. In the end, HB910 made it through the House and the Senate with only FOUR WORDS different in each version of the bill.
When the Senate version went back to the House for what should have been a technicality, the House merely had to “CONCUR” on the Senate wording and the bill heads to the Governor for his signature. Well, long story short, the House DID NOT concur and with just a few days left until the end of the session it could very well die in conference as many a gun bill before it has done. The question is WHY? The man who started the open carry movement and leader of Open Carry Texas, CJ Grisham, has made some serious allegations as to who is thwarting Texas gun rights legislation. In a Facebook post, CJ alleges that “the NRA & TSRA were lobbying AGAINST your right” and that they were “spitting mad and trying to persuade Senators NOT to vote for the Huffines/Dutton/Rinaldi amendment” which would protect open carriers from being detained by police for verification of their license without probable cause, other than the fact that they were indeed open carrying. In other words, the amendment protected licensees 4th amendment rights.
When I spoke with CJ, he expressed a sense of betrayal, saying
“I’ve been an NRA member and supporter for years. On the award winning military blog [A Soldier’s Perspective] I’ve run since 2005 I’ve pushed their messages, videos, graphics, and agendas.” He went on to say, “I’ve given thousands of dollars to an organization that I thought had the best interests of gun owners at heart; that I thought was a bulldog in the halls of the legislature. They turned out to be lapdogs, only fighting for the low hanging fruit – the easy stuff – instead of actually fighting for complete respect for the constitution. It’s unfortunate that I have started to feel the way I do about an organization in which I am a Life Endowment member.” CJ Grisham is a Golden Eagles member of the NRA as well.
You can see the entirety of his allegations HERE. In the comments, others stated similar experiences with the NRA and their state level counterparts working against the grassroots advocates in Alabama and other places. Others had a more visceral reaction, such as cutting up their NRA membership card and posting pictures. Some defended the NRA/TSRA as possibly having more “insight” as to what will or won’t pass, but one commenter summed it up pretty well when he said,
“The NRA is useful for standing against bad legislation. Not so much for pushing good legislation.”
A little research revealed that this is not the first time that Mr. Grisham has questioned the motives of the NRA and TSRA. In an article, within weeks of the opening of the legislative session, on the gun rights page Cold Dead Hands, CJ took issue with how these organizations were pushing licensed open carry and down-playing the constitutional carry bills that had been filed as well. Why Is The NRA Selling Away My Rights? [*In Texas] by CJ Grisham.
This might leads some to question the entire lobbyist industry, because it seems obvious that an issue-oriented advocate would fight against bad legislation on their issue, but why not push for good legislation? If you really stop and think about it… It makes perfect sense. Fighting bad legislation keeps the issue hotly contested and keeps the money flowing in order to continue the fight. Pushing good legislation means eventually lobbying yourself right out of a job. For example; if the United States passed unrestricted, unlicensed Constitutional Carry nationwide and repealed every federal gun control law on the books, then why would people continue to send their money to the NRA? Texas is a big state, Texas is a very pro-gun state, Texans donate A LOT of money to the NRA and TSRA in order to continue the fight to restore their gun rights that have been infringed upon in Texas since post-Civil War Reconstruction. Constitutional Carry in Texas would mean a big drop in donations and membership dues going to the NRA and TSRA.
The non-concurrence of the House with the legislative session nearing its end could mean a whole new battle begins again in the next legislative session. Fundraisers, membership drives in order to carry on the fight… Can you see where this is going? While C.J. Grisham claims to have a sitting Texas Senator as a source for his allegations against the NRA/TSRA, that source has not been named or corroborated, so at this point we can only report the allegations and you must weigh the credibility. Tell us what you think of the allegations in the comments below.
UPDATE: May 29, 2015
If the allegations made by CJ Grisham are true, it would appear that the lobbying efforts of the NRA/TSRA may have been successful in stripping the “cop stop” amendment, passed by both the House and Senate. The licensed open carry bill may yet pass, but without the protection against police harassment. Not only were there the allegations of NRA/TSRA lobbying against the amendment, but law enforcement groups also lobbied against it, led by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. The same groups who have been lobbying against open carry period. To the cynical-minded it could appear that law enforcement wants to retain the right to “interact” with anyone they see open carrying to discourage the practice. IS OPEN CARRY JUST TOO SCARY FOR COPS? (UPDATED)
Many grassroots activist groups are now advising their members to contact Gov. Abbott and their representatives to tell them to “Kill The Bill.” It seems they would rather have NO open carry over a licensed privilege open carry that comes with police harassment of law abiding citizens. It will be two years before the next Texas Legislature convenes and pro-gun groups have another chance to fight for gun rights in Texas.