Texas Aims to Relax a Gun Law; Part of Trend?

Post-Tucson tragedy, states feel little impetus to tighten gun laws.

January 12, 2011, 6:36 PM

Jan. 13, 2011— -- The shooting tragedy in Tucson has intensified some calls for gun control, but one state may soon be relaxing its firearms law further, signaling a larger trend across the country.

A bill pending in the Texas state legislature would allow employees to carry legally-owned concealed handguns in their vehicles on their employer's property.

If it passes, Texas would join 13 other states that already allow employees this freedom -- Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.

Texas State Senator Glenn Hegar, who filed the bill, argues that it is an important step in protecting Texans' Second Amendment rights.

"Law-abiding citizens, people who have no desire to do any harm to others except than to have their legal firearms in their vehicle which no one knows is even there doesn't harm anyone. They simply want to protect themselves. Those people are being punished," Hegar told ABC News. "Who we have to focus on are people who are criminals. Those who want to do harm. Those who have deranged thoughts who want to kill people on a shooting spree."

The legislation doesn't come as a surprise, given Texas' relaxed gun laws, but it comes at a time when sensitivity over gun control is heightened in the wake of the shooting in Arizona.

On the federal level, the tragic incident has given proponents of gun control a new angle to push stricter laws.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was killed in a 1993 shooting on the Long Island Rail Road, plans to introduce legislation restricting the kind of high-capacity ammunition clip that was used by Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter who went on a rampage that killed six people.

The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Peter King, R-N.Y., will introduce a bill that would ban knowingly carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of certain high-profile government officials.

In an effort to minimize the use of gun imagery in political ads, Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., is writing legislation to make it illegal to place crosshairs on a Congress member's district.

But as history suggests, the chances of such rhetoric turning into reality is highly unlikely.

State Gun Control Laws Under Scrutiny After Shooting in Arizona

"There's no reason the federal government will do anything on this. The House of Representatives is the most conservative house, if not in American history, then in our lifetime, and so it would be quite surprising if they came out of the House" with any substantial legislation, said Sanford V. Levinson, a constitutional scholar and professor of government at the University of Texas in Austin.

"What you'll get is bloviating from a variety of politicians but that's very different from anything that could be described as action and at a state level it's a matter of local culture and local politics."

The Tucson tragedy has changed Americans' views on gun control slightly, but it's unclear whether that will last. According to a CBS News poll released Tuesday, 47 percent of Americans said gun control laws should be tougher in the wake of the Arizona shootings, while 36 percent of those polled said they should remain the same.

Gallup polling shows that Americans have grown less supportive of strengthening gun laws in the last two decades. In its most recent polling in 2010, Gallup found that 44 percent favored stricter laws.

But a number of politicians, from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to Sarah Palin, have cautioned that the incident not to be used to impinge on people's freedoms.

In Texas, Hegar is confident that his third attempt at passing his bill will be successful.

And while there is no relation between the Second Amendment and employees being able to bring concealed weapons onto their employers' property, Levinson said the law is unlikely to be struck down by the Supreme Court.

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