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Gun Permit Allows Visitors Quick Access to Texas Capitol

Gun Permit Allows Visitors Quick Access to Texas Capitol

A sign offers an open lane for those with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) -- what many insiders consider an express pass gain access to the Texas Capitol in Austin. [AP]

Associated Press

July 19, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — Everyone from lobbyists to lawyers and journalists is rushing to get permits to carry guns inside the Texas Capitol, where legislators already often tote pistols in boots and purses or stow them away inside their desks.

A unique loophole in a new security procedure means a gun permit is like a special-access pass into the domed building, allowing people who are certified to carry a gun to bypass lines at the metal detectors that were set up after a shooting incident earlier this year.

“Nobody wants to be the one standing in line behind three hundred kids wearing the same colored T-shirt,” said University of Texas political scientist Jim Henson. “If you’re trying to get in and out really quick and there’s going to be choke points, well, people don’t want to have to deal with that.”

There’s now a frenzy for folks to get trained and licensed to carry a firearm, especially before the legislative session begins in January. It’s not required that people have a gun to enter the Capitol through the express lane. Merely holding a valid permit, and presenting it at the entrance, will get them expedited entry.

“Everybody is doing it or is planning to do it,” said lobbyist Bill Miller, who has taken the required training and is waiting for his license to arrive in the mail.

The metal detectors were installed at the Capitol’s four public entrances in May, a few months after a man fired off a few rounds outside the doors of the main entrance. No one was harmed.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is known to sometimes carry a .380 caliber pistol, vehemently objected to the metal detectors, saying he didn’t want to see airport-like security logjams at a Capitol known for its open and freewheeling culture.

Texas law allows people to carry a weapon if they have a permit and as long as the gun is concealed. A separate lane for license-holders had to be created so gun-toters could enter without having to pull out their weapons — or unconceal them — along with their wallets and keys.

Guns were previously allowed in the Capitol. With the arrival of the metal detectors, permit-holders now get their licenses scanned to make sure they are in good standing and their bags are put through an X-ray scanner.

The Department of Public Safety, which tracks data on gun permits, said it’s too early to tell if there has been a surge in applications. However, interviews with lobbyists, consultants, and state officials show Capitol insiders are flocking to sign up for them.

It’s all been great for business, said Mike Cox, who has become the go-to guy to train political insiders on getting their gun permits.

“There’s been a burst of interest. They want to get that express tag to gain entrance to the Capitol,” Cox said. “It’s their job. They don’t want to be impeded by visitors on busy days when there’s a lot of tourists.”

Cox has a shooting range just south of Austin, and lobbyists and others in the political in-crowd take his 10-hour class.

The students learned about nonviolent resolution techniques, listened to harrowing 911 calls and, to demonstrate the dangers of a firearm, horrifying videos are shown that include a graphic suicide and one in which a man accidentally kills his friend. They also have to pass a written test on the course material and then must undergo a background check, pay about $260 or so in fees, and get fingerprinted.

That lawmakers would take the trouble to install magnetometers and then allow weapons inside has drawn criticism from gun-control advocates, including the Brady Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which called the policy “ludicrous.” Some tourists also were perplexed by the new procedures.

“Where’s the security come from if you can still get in with a gun?” asked Canadian tourist Clyde Ducharme, who went through the metal detectors one recent morning.

Lobbyist Michelle Wittenburg, who recently received her gun permit and has been signing up her colleagues so they can do the same, said the security at the Capitol is still strong because permit-holders aren’t the ones who would pose any threat.

“If you do have a CHL (gun permit) then that shows you have gone through a background check and you’ve been vetted, so to speak,” Wittenburg said. “I don’t think those are the people that are going to cause your problems in the Capitol.”

  • Evgeni_nabokov_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Go Texas Go

    I even found some odd laws from Texas.
    * It's illegal to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel.
    * You can't go bare foot without getting a special $5 permit.
    * It's illegal to sell ones own eye.
    * It is illegal to milk another person's cow.
    * In Houston, it is illegal to sell Limburger cheese on Sunday.
    * In LeFors, it is illegal to take more than three swallows of beer while standing.
    * In Mesquite it's illigal for children to have "unusual" haircuts.

  • Img_0055_max50


    about 4 years ago


    good for texas

  • Thinker_max50


    about 4 years ago


    While I may not think this is a prudent idea, if it works and the legislators feel safe, go for it...

  • Pug_max600_max50


    about 4 years ago


    This is Texas the home of the range with 32 other states recognizing us. Many of the anti-gun lobby carry concealed handguns for personal protection in case bag guys come for them......

  • Ba_old_glory_max50


    about 4 years ago


    All I carry is spray. But, I can't carry it into a public building.

  • Picture_008_max50


    about 4 years ago


    If you have permit to carry you should be able to go anywhere you want.. The background check has already been done.....

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    So true about Florida...
    This crap (hole) whatever is going to create some sad news soon....

  • 1979_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Damn! Even as a retired LEO under HR218 I am not allowed to carry into a Courthouse here in Florida or SC! In fact, I don't know of any Government building that I am allowed to carry CCW in. Even when visiting a stand alone LE Agency I politely ID myself and inform the LEO in charge I am carrying and he can either permit my entrance or hold my weapon, I would not just walk in past the entrance!

  • Untitledma28839986-0002_max50


    about 4 years ago


    This a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Police_link_badge_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Here we go!

  • Tigerstripe_002_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Yeeeeeehawwww! *Bang bang*
    Actually people were able to walk right in before the shooting that lead to the metal detector checkpoint. Its checking for guns. Thusly showing you are licensed to carry lets you get right in. Druh bob.

  • 101_2771_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I love Texas.

  • Ribbon_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Seems ok for know until something happens. Can you imagine the cross fire cluster if something does happen?!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    Yep...we live in Texas

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    That's hilarious: anti-gun politicians with concealed carry permits!

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