Cities and Cops Could Get Caught in the Crossfire Between State and Feds on Gun Laws

Like innocent bystanders in a shootout, cities and police officers may not know which way to turn for safety if there’s a showdown between the state and the federal governments on gun laws.

A trio of bills flying through the legislature put cities, and especially their police officers, in a strange bind.  The bills, H.B. 928 (Krause), H.B. 1076 (Toth), and H.B. 1314 (Creighton), are similar. If all of them pass, they would subject city police to criminal charges for enforcing federal firearms laws, and would subject any city that allows such enforcement to a lawsuit by the state’s attorney general.  When H.B. 928 was passed in the House, a floor amendment was adopted to address the problem of what happens if cities get sued by the federal government for not enforcing federal laws.  The solution:  the Texas attorney general would defend any such city.  The League has suggested that this sensible amendment be offered to the other two bills, as well.

When H.B. 928 came up for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs, and Homeland Security, however, the first order of business was to lay out a committee substitute that removed the attorney general’s duty to defend the city.  The reason given by Committee Chair Craig Estes, who laid out the bill, was that “the attorney general does not normally engage in these types of activities and did not wish to do that in the future.” 

The absurd result of the substituted bill:  the state appears willing and able to sue cities for not following the bills, but won’t defend the very same cities from federal lawsuits for following those bills.  Talk about a rock and a hard place.  The substituted bill now goes to the Senate floor as soon as this week.

City officials concerned about the double standard of these bills should contact their senator immediately.

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. 
No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the 
Texas Municipal League.

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