Senate Bill (SB) 20 would forbid hotels from prohibiting firearms. Hotels would keep the power to require concealment of weapons, but they would have to let their customers carry and store their weapons in their rooms.
Debate arose over the state’s authority to regulate how property owners run their buildings. State Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) said that the bill would hamper private property rights and compared the Second Amendment to the First Amendment, noting that the state lets hotels prohibit certain acts of speech like loud music.
In response, Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant) said guests have an expectation that their rented rooms become their “domain” during their time there, and responsible gun-owning guests should be allowed to take their weapons in from their cars.
Other concerns included a potential economic impact. Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-San Marcos) and other critics theorized that the bill could harm the hospitality industry. Hefner brushed off these questions, saying gun freedoms outweighed hypothetical fiscal dents in the hotel economy.
A few Democrats joined Republicans in the final 81 to 62 vote, according to the unofficial results. Reps. Alma Allen (D-Houston), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), and Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass) all voted for the measure.
Canales, Guillen, and Morales also voted for constitutional carry.
SB 20 is not the only modest expansion of weapons rights to see some Democratic support. One bill by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) to broaden the list of legal places to carry knives passed the House 142 to 2 and awaits action in a Senate committee.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick made hotel carry one of his 31 legislative priorities, titling it “Second Amendment Protections for Travelers.” Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) is the primary author in the Senate, where the bill passed by a wide margin and an unusually bipartisan vote.
Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) joined Sens. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin), John Whitmire (D-Houston), and Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) to vote against the bill, which passed 27 to 4. The typically conservative Birdwell explained his vote against the bill as an expression of support for property rights.
“This legislation seeks to emphasize Second Amendment rights to such a degree that they supersede property rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. It is my duty to protect all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights equally and simultaneously,” Birdwell wrote.
“While the marketplace shall determine which hotel someone stays in, SB 20 will force hoteliers to subordinate their Fifth Amendment private property rights to their potential customers’ Second Amendment rights by the force of law.”
If the Senate accepts the bill as amended by the House, it will go to the governor’s desk. If not, it will go through a conference committee to resolve differences between each chamber’s version before reaching the governor.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.