Web Posted: 03/21/2007 02:50 AM CDT
Senate committee OKs gun rights bill
AUSTIN ó A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill, fiercely opposed by businesses, that gives workers the right to lock concealed handguns in their cars, even if the parking lot is owned by their employer.
While businesses testified the bill undermines their private property rights, supporters said those rights must be balanced against the safety rights of licensed concealed handgun owners.
"It just says, whether it's a public or private employer, you cannot discipline, discharge or discriminate against an employee who has a handgun in the parking lot," said Rep. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, author of the bill.
The bill calls for reinstatement of employees with back pay if an employer fires them for locking a concealed handgun in their car.
Likewise, workers are required to notify their employer that they carry guns in their cars.
The Texas Association of Business rallied against Hegar's measure and other gun bills before the Legislature, saying they "require employers to allow firearms on their private property."
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he thinks some businesses have overstated their case.
"I thought we had a bill that said you can't carry a gun on the premise. Now I understand it applies to the parking lot," Whitmire said.
Hegar clarified that his bill does not grant the right to carry licensed concealed handguns into places of business, courtrooms or other places where guns are banned.
Self-defense bill heads to governor
Texans would have a stronger legal right to defend themselves with deadly force against intruders under legislation the state House overwhelmingly approved Tuesday and sent to Gov. Rick Perry.
The bill, pushed by Republican lawmakers and backed by the National Rifle Association, states that a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder in his or her home, workplace or vehicle before using deadly force. In some cases, existing law requires a retreat.
The building or vehicle must be occupied at the time for the deadly force provision to apply. And the person using force cannot provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.
The House gave final approval to the so-called "Castle Doctrine" bill with a 133-13 vote.
"This is an important move to ensure Texans have the right to defend themselves when it counts the most," said Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody.