Texas lawmaker seeks to keep guns out of state psychiatric hospitals

A Texas lawmaker is pushing legislation that would keep guns out of psychiatric hospitals in the state, just one year after the facilities began allowing firearms on their campuses.

House Bill 14, proposed by Republican Rep. Andrew Murr, would prohibit guns at 10 mental health hospitals run by the state of Texas, the Statesman reports.

“No one wants a gun to fall into the hands of a mentally ill patient who could pose a danger to himself or herself, fellow patients, visitors or staff,” Murr said.

Firearms had been banned at Texas psychiatric hospitals until a 2015 state law implemented penalties for local government entities that displayed “no guns” signs on public buildings without specific authorization. Because of the law, the Department of State Health Services, the organization that runs the hospitals, could not legally enforce gun-free campuses at their facilities.

There is a state law that prohibits firearms at state-licensed and specialty hospitals, but the 10 psychiatric hospitals were not included, as they are not licensed by the state of Texas. Therefore, as of January 2016, guns have been allowed at those psychiatric hospitals.

Murr said the bill, which would make the hospitals gun-free once again, has the support of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Strauss.

“Texas has historically restricted weapons in these facilities, and this bill would remedy an unintended consequence of a bill passed two years ago,” he said.

Murr has reportedly worked with the National Rifle Association and Texas State Rifle Association to draft the bill, which calls for fines of $100 for first offenses and $500 for second offenses.

“In some cases, these individuals have been accused of serious and heinous crimes,” said Murr. “We should ensure that we continue to practice the policies previously used by state mental health hospitals to properly safeguard and protect their employees, visitors and patients.”

Murr’s bill has been introduced and referred to the Public Health committee in the Texas Legislature.