East Texas state rep proposes bill allowing open carry for prose - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

East Texas state rep proposes bill allowing open carry for prosecutors

Trent Ashby (Source: KTRE Staff) Trent Ashby (Source: KTRE Staff)
Mike and Cynthia McLelland (Source: Facebook) Mike and Cynthia McLelland (Source: Facebook)
Mark Hasse (Source: Kaufman County) Mark Hasse (Source: Kaufman County)
Source: KLTV Staff Source: KLTV Staff

When the Texas Legislature meets for the 84th time next January, they will consider a bill that would allow prosecutors to openly carry firearms for protection.

Right now, prosecutors are allowed to carry a concealed weapon to work. If this bill passes, it would give prosecutors a choice to open carry.

East Texas News spoke to State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, who is the bill's author about the violent genesis of his bill - two courthouse shootings that occurred right here in East Texas.

One East Texas legislator wants to change courthouse security after the 2013 murders of two Kaufman County prosecutors.

“My bill would allow prosecutors at the state, county, municipal level to open carry weapons if they go through the permitting process,” Ashby said.

Ashby said he hopes proposed House Bill 278 will expand on the 2007 state law that allows prosecutors to conceal and carry a firearm.

Matt Bingham was the Smith County District Attorney in 2005 when a gunman opened fire at the Smith County Courthouse. Three people were killed, including the gunman.

Bingham said he supports Second Amendment rights and is not against Ashby's bill.

"If you want to carry open, then carry open,” Bingham said. “I won't because, tactically, I think I am at an advantage if the bad guy does not know I am armed."

In Angelina County, Assistant DA Elmer Beckworth said open carry is a tricky subject.

“It's something the legislature should look into,” Beckworth said.

Both prosecutors agree that the Kaufman and Smith County shootings bring safety to the front of lawmaker' mind.

“It's always been there, but with the Kaufman incident it just re-emphasizes the seriousness of what we do and the dangers we face,” Beckworth said. “We have to evolve with the actions of people. The courthouse shootings show us people will bring it to your front door.”

Ashby hopes this particular evolution will stop future tragedies.

Ashby also introduced a bill that would make shooting and killing a prosecutor a capital murder offense if the murder was committed as retaliation or because of their job title.

Kaufman County assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down near the county courthouse in 2013. The county's top prosecutor, District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia, were shot and killed in their home months later. Former Justice of the Peace Eric Williams and his wife Kim were arrested and charged in connection to the deaths. They are still awaiting trial.

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