Texans would be allowed to keep firearms and ammunition in their cars and trucks while they are at work, under a bill approved Tuesday by the state Senate over the objections of business groups.
The bill would ban employers from setting policies that prohibit guns from their parking lots. It is the third time since 2007 the Senate has passed the bill, only to see it fail in the House twice. The latest bill now heads to the House for consideration, and the author of the measure is optimistic it will pass.
State law already allows Texans to carry concealed handguns in their vehicles, with some restrictions, though many employers have adopted policies barring weapons that their workers leave in their vehicles.
"There's a fear that law-abiding citizens have to pick between their jobs and their Second Amendment rights," said bill author Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.
Senators passed the measure 30-1. It is supported by the Texas Rifle Association, but has run into opposition from the Texas Association of Business and other business groups and Texas trial lawyers. Business groups warn the bill could lead to more workplace violence.
The bill still lets businesses ban guns from their offices and from company vehicles. It would not apply to school parking lots or federal property where firearms are already banned.
Hegar said his bill covers concealed handguns as well as rifles or shotguns that may be used in hunting. But any gun in a car or truck would have to be kept hidden from view and the vehicle would have to be locked.
"Any reasonable gun owner is going to keep it out of sight," Hegar said, adding that having a weapon sitting on a car seat or hanging in a window is inviting a break-in and theft.
The House version of the bill already has 83 of that chamber's 150 members signed on as co-authors, boosting its chances of becoming law.
It is the first of two major gun measures lawmakers will deal with this week. A House committee has scheduled the first public hearing Wednesday on proposals to allow concealed handgun license holders -- including students and professors -- to bring their weapons into college classrooms and buildings.