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The State of Texas: December 22, 2015

The state is still trying to figure out the whole open carry thing, and Bernie Tiede gets a megastar fundraiser.

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Daily Roundup

Gun Control — Texas is less than two weeks away from being open carry and just eight months from allowing guns on campus. It looks like the reality is finally settling in. Yesterday, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued his legal opinion on schools’ last ditch attempts to keep guns away from impressionable young minds, and it doesn’t look good for those trying to foster a safe environment. Paxton said that “universities may violate the contentious new firearms law if they try to bar concealed handguns in dorms,” writes the Dallas Morning News. What’s more, Paxton offered a pretty strict view of the law, despite hopes that there might be some leeway in where schools can] prohibit firearms. “Attending or teaching class is the primary reason most individuals are on campus,” he wrote. “If an institution prohibited the carrying of concealed handguns in a substantial number of classrooms, a court would likely conclude that the effect would be to ‘generally prohibit.’” As with all of Paxton’s opinions, this one has no legal weight, but at least people know where the state stands. While schools still have time to consider options, state agencies are cramming before the January 1 start date of open carry. The San Antonio Express-News has a great look at the effort by various state agencies to implement a policy for its employees, and the rules of who can and cannot open carry sure appear to be random and arbitrary. This is good news for TABC workers. Those with the TEA will have to ask for permission, while the “The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the state’s single largest agency by employment … has decided to continue its blanket gun ban for employees.” Nothing like bureaucracy to solve problems involving firearms! As the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports, however, some local governments are taking a much easier, blanket approach. On Monday, Nueces C0unty decided to simply ban all guns from government-owned premises. The very Texas decision (read: contradictory but well-intentioned) was explained thusly: “All of us standing here are big supporters of the Second Amendment, but we believe this is the right thing to do,” said County Judge Loyd Neal. “We have an obligation … to do the best we can to protect the citizens when they come into county buildings.”

Bernie Benefit — Perhaps it’s one of those “only in Austin” scenes, but it looks like Bernie Tiede, the story-and-movie-famous convicted murderer is getting a little help from his friends. Richard Linklater, the director behind the movie (inspired by a Texas Monthly piece), is hosting a star-studded fundraiser for Bernie, with the aim of raising between $150,000 and $200,000 for a legal defense fund, according to the Texas Tribune. “In the invitation, Linklater writes that the fundraiser ‘will include a dinner and music line-up we’ll all be talking about for years. Jack Black, Bernie composer Graham Reynolds and Bernie Tiede himself will perform songs from the movie and more. After that, Jack’s band Tenacious D will take the stage,'” goes the story.  “As an added incentive to those who help pay for a table at the fundraiser, Linklater promised ‘the most exclusive screening of Bernie EVER’ with Tiede, McConaughey, Black and ‘possibly’ [Shirley] MacLaine in attendance, according to the invitation.” Bernie is currently out of jail under special restrictions that he lives with with Linklater while a new sentencing trial is being prepared. The new trial is set for April.

Incompetent Defense — The attorney for a Houston man who killed a cop is using his client’s mental health conditions to save him from capital murder charges. “In a court motion filed Monday, Shannon Miles’ attorneys say he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, that he can’t ‘consult with his attorneys with a reasonable degree of rational understanding,’ and that he doesn’t understand the legal proceedings against him,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “Miles, 31, is charged with capital murder in the Aug. 28 killing of Deputy Darren Goforth. Prosecutors say Goforth was filling his squad car at a suburban Houston gas station when Miles attacked him, shooting him 15 times. They allege that he attacked the deputy because he was a law enforcement officer. In the motion, Anthony Osso, one of Miles’ two attorneys, indicated that ‘his attempts to communicate with (Miles) in a rational manner have proven to no avail.’ Miles’ attorneys said a report by a psychiatric expert for the defense ‘concludes with a reasonable degree of medical probability that the defendant is presently incompetent to stand trial.”

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