Panic buttons coming to Texas House after open carry confrontation

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AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas House made it easier for its members to place panic buttons in their Capitol offices on Wednesday, a day after a heated confrontation involving gun rights activists and a Democratic lawmaker.

The rule, unanimously approved as part of a routine House administration plan, directs the Department of Public Safety to ensure that each House member could request a panic button that “alerts the department in the case of emergency.”

The newly adopted rule also provides lawmakers more time and greater flexibility for reimbursing the state for the cost of the panic button, and gives representatives more discretion about who can enter – and who can be asked to leave – their offices.

San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who sponsored the amendment, suggested while speaking on the House floor Wednesday that some representatives already had office panic buttons. But in a subsequent interview, he directed questions to DPS, where spokesman Tom Vinger had no comment.

The measure followed a heated exchange between members of a pro-gun group and Rep. Poncho Nevarez, a Democrat from Eagle Pass.

An online video of the incident shows Nevarez asking the group to leave his office while being called a “tyrant to the Constitution” for not supporting a bill to overturn Teas’ longstanding ban against the open-carry of handguns.

In the clip, posted by a gun rights activist, Nevarez is heard saying he will call security and seen having trouble closing his door on the group. The confrontation occurred in Nevarez’s office on Tuesday, when the Texas Legislature opened its 140-day session.

“Yesterday called into question whether a member could ask someone to leave when a member felt a situation was becoming a little bit out of control,” Martinez Fischer said Wednesday on the House floor. “We don’t necessarily agree on every issue, but I know we care about each other.”

The rule takes immediate effect. Because it only affects House policy, neither the Senate’s nor the governor’s approval is required.Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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