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Capitol Gallery: E-mail attack slows gun bill's momentum


March 28, 2001

AUSTIN – The e-mail was discharged without authorization, wounding a bill that is the first gun-control measure in forever with a chance of passage in the Legislature.

The measure, which would prohibit those accused or convicted of domestic violence from having a gun, still struggles on, now weighted by controversy and consternation.

The powerful Texas State Rifle Association, state kin to the NRA, promised to not fight the bill by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, but a rebel faction managed a surprise attack.

The measure states that those under a protective order or convicted of family violence cannot possess firearms. The bill tracks a federal law.

State association executive director Randy Gibson credits Mr. West with meeting with the group and altering his bill to allay their concerns. As a result, they promised to remain neutral.

"We don't want someone convicted of family violence with a gun," Mr. Gibson said.

He said his organization promotes safety and responsibility, and Mr. West's bill keeps with those goals.

But not every gun-rights advocate is so assured. They worry that anyone caught in a contentious divorce might be slapped with a protective order and their guns confiscated.

Mr. Gibson said this bill takes such concerns into account, specifying that the protective orders that rescind gun rights must be prompted by an attempt to do harm.

With that understanding, Mr. West's bill passed the Senate and whizzed through House committee.

Then came the unauthorized March 20 e-mail, sent to tens of thousands of gun owners, sparking many to call their representatives in protest.

House sponsor Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, said, "The e-mail trashed it. Now someone's tagged the bill," meaning it is being delayed at a member's request.

Mr. Goodman said he is confident the bill will pass, eventually.

"I don't know why they would object to something already prohibited under federal law. And if you have a protective order against you, you shouldn't have a handgun," he said.

Mr. Gibson said the state group sent out two follow-up e-mails, explaining the bill and saying the group has taken a neutral stance.

Of course, every organization has its true believers, and some will probably continue opposing the bill, he said.

"You're going to have those on the extreme edge who think no one should be limited in having a firearm," Mr. Gibson said.

Mr. West remains philosophical.

"I tried to work with them real hard," he said. "We'll just see what happens."

The '60s

Anyone who has passed any time in Austin since the 1960s needs to sit down. Norman "Doug" Brown is 60.

The Senate honored Mr. Brown, the founder of Oat Willies, on Tuesday.

Oat Willies is a reputable smoke store. But let's just say college kids through the years have been known to buy a lot of pipes and cigarette papers there.

Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, noted that Oat Willies also is known for "the most famous Texas bumper sticker" ever minted.

In their prime, those stickers were as ubiquitous as Volkswagen vans and are still seen today.

And more than one senator has been known to quote the sticker in describing their legislative efforts: "Onward Through The Fog."

By Christy Hoppe, © 2001 The Dallas Morning News


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