ACLU backs Texas gun liberalization
The Houston Chronicle reports that the ACLU (I assume the state chapter!) joined with NRA to support the recent amendment liberalizing Texas firearms laws. "The law, House Bill 823, was supported by the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union and opposed by various law-enforcement groups."
The story also reports that local prosecutors are suggesting that they won't pay much heed to the law. Texas long forbade carrying of a handgun, with an exception for anyone who was travelling, a term left undefined. (After it recently adopted CCW licenses, those gave an exception, but the article says that those licenses can be denied for many reasons having nothing to do with criminal records, e.g., default on a student loan or being behind on taxes). The amendment provided that a person is presumed to be "travelling" if they are essentially a lawful gun owner, in a private vehicle, and the gun is concealed.
But prosecutors and police are suggesting that it won't stop them from making arrests! It's a presumption, so they'll arrest even if it applies, and make the person go to court to prove their case. That's probably legal, but not very ethical.
It does raise an interesting question. "Travel" is ambigous. Does it mean walking from here to the street, or driving across town, or only going for some great distance? The presumption seems to indicate that the meaning is something closer to the first examples. So it might well influence interpretation of the law in settings where the person isn't in a motor vehicle. If driving for a block or two is travelling, then so presumably would be walking that distance. Or is the reasoning made different by the peculiarity of the provision -- you're only presumed to be travelling if, for example, the firearm is concealed and you are a lawful possessor, things that have nothing to do with, well, whether you are "travelling."
Finally, I wonder if there might be a problem with unconstitutional presumptions altho I suspect, without researching it, that a legislature would have much more leeway when the presumption is a defense to crime than when it is an element of it (i.e., you cannot have a law that defines murder as intentional killing and an instruction that everyone is presumed to intend the normal consequences of their acts, because that would allow the prosecution to avoid its duty to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt, by simply proving a person did something that normallyn would result in a death).