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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
DA opposed to new handgun law
Pistol-toting drivers without a permit will still be prosecuted, Rosenthal warns
Aug. 30, 2005, 1:35AM

TSRA Webmaster Note: If so inclined, you can contact Chuck Rosenthal . Try to be nice.

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - Motorists arrested for carrying pistols in their cars without a concealed handgun license will continue to be prosecuted in Houston, despite a new law that purports to give them a legal defense, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said Monday.

Although the sponsor said the law should reduce the number of arrests for unlawful handgun possession, Rosenthal said it won't change enforcement practices in Houston after it goes into effect on Thursday.

"It is still going to be against the law for (unlicensed) persons to carry handguns in autos," the district attorney said, adding that the new legal defense can still be challenged by prosecutors.

The new law, enacted during the regular legislative session last spring, seeks to clarify a longtime law that allowed Texans to carry handguns while traveling, a qualification that was subject to a number of inconsistent court interpretations over the years.

The new statute says a person is "presumed to be traveling" if he or she is in a private vehicle, is not engaged in criminal activity (except for a minor traffic offense), is not prohibited by any other law from possessing a firearm and is not a member of a criminal street gang.

It also requires the handgun to be concealed in the car, although weapons can be discovered by officers during routine traffic stops if a driver gives permission for a car to be searched or opens a glove compartment where a gun is secured to retrieve an insurance card or other documentation.

"The intent of the law is to keep innocent people from going to jail," said the sponsor, Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, a former prosecutor and former Travis County sheriff who now is a candidate for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The law, House Bill 823, was supported by the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union and opposed by various law-enforcement groups.

More than 237,000 Texans have concealed handgun licenses. But many other law-abiding adults don't have licenses because they are disqualified by exceptions that have nothing to do with public safety, said Alice Tripp, a lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, an NRA affiliate.

Tripp said people who have defaulted on student loans, who owe the state sales tax or franchise tax payments or are behind in child support payments are ineligible to receive a license.

Keel said he hoped the law will prompt police officers to think twice about arresting motorists who meet the new legal presumption and spare them the expense and "indignity" of arrest and prosecution.

Otherwise, he said, "They basically are going to arrest innocent people and make them prove their innocence."

Rosenthal and Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, disagreed.

Rosenthal said the new presumption about "traveling" doesn't define what constitutes traveling and can be challenged in court by prosecutors, leaving it to juries to decide verdicts "based upon the facts of the case."

A prosecutor could summon witnesses to successfully argue that a defendant wasn't traveling because he was simply "driving around the corner for a carton of milk," Kepple said.

"I really don't think (the law) should affect how police officers respond in arresting somebody," he added.

Houston Police Department spokeswoman Johanna Abad indicated Houston police were going to take their advice from Rosenthal's office.

Unlawful possession of a weapon is a class A misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in county jail and a $4,000 fine. Rosenthal said most cases are resolved through plea bargains.

The prosecutor said he asked Gov. Rick Perry to veto the bill because "taking weapons off the street is a pretty good deal." He said his office handled about 5,000 weapons cases of varying degrees of severity last year.

Tripp called Rosenthal's opposition a case of "sour grapes ... and a threat to the general public."

Super Moderator
13,941 Posts
That just sucks so bad! CCW already makes a right a privilege controlled by the state and this just emphasizes the point.

868 Posts
The idea of going after people under the new law sounds like California reasoning. Why is Haris county taking this stand?? Usually there is money backers guiding the politicians in these matters. Not a good thing for the people of Texas. Why is getting a Texas CCW tied to if you owe taxes or have not payed your student loan? Thats kind of interesting.

3,213 Posts
Otherwise, he said, "They basically are going to arrest innocent people and make them prove their innocence."
Ding ding ding we have a winner.

Texas has some really messed up gun laws in that the law says one thing and the authorities do another.

Texans, it's going to take a trial where someone gets arrested and manages to defend themselves as innocent under state law. It's going to be a long, expensive case, and the other problem is it's probably going to happen in the anti-2A Austin and Houston areas.

Premium Member
25,481 Posts
"taking weapons off the street is a pretty good deal."
Oh yeah - right - if that were to mean those guns in criminal possession!!!!

Beyond that it's time ''they'' realized it is just those criminal guns that make it wise for regular folks to have on hand their OWN means of SD.

It is sad and more than aggravating, as someone said or implied, when law says one thing and then it is ''interpreted'' by others to suit their cause.

1,782 Posts
We have a Jon Rosenthal in MA who claims to own a gun and is the money man and head of a couple of totally anti-gun orgs that he created to make it sound like a "reasonable group of gun owners"!

I wonder if the joker in TX is a brother to the jerk we have here in MA??
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