Like many other states, Texas bans the carrying of concealed handguns without a license. Obtaining a license requires a background check and a gun-safety course. By long-established law, however, Texans can cite "traveling" as a defense to possession of an unlicensed handgun. But while traveling was widely understood to denote a journey of some distance, it was never defined. (Travel on planes and other interstate conveyances banning weapons falls under federal jurisdiction.)
In 2005, lawmakers sought to remove the ambiguity by declaring that anyone in a private vehicle who was not engaged in criminal activity or otherwise barred from possessing a firearm was "presumed to be traveling," and thus exempt from restrictions on concealed handguns.
The problem came with the fact that a number of county and district attorneys didn't agree with the law. In spite of what the legislature had to say on the matter, they instructed police to seize any weapons found and to arrest the driver. As one DA put it "The presumption of innocence does not make the person innocent."
Needless to say, this hasn't gone over well with either gun owners or the legislature, who thought that they made the matter pretty clear. And to highlight the threat of inappropriate arrest and prosecution, the Texas ACLU and the NRA affiliate decided to work together to produce a report titled Above the Law: How Texas prosecutors are placing their own judgment over that of the Legislature and the law of the land.
From the .pdf:
The ACLU, TCJC and TSRA:
Common ground in defense of the law and the constitution
The ACLU of Texas, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition TCJC) and the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA) came together to spotlight unlawful, unnecessary governmental encroachment on average law-abiding citizens. TSRA and the National Rifle Association advocated for HB 823 in 2005, and its members remain keenly interested. TCJC and the ACLU believe that Texas incarcerates too many people already for nonviolent conduct, and that unnecessary incarceration of nonviolent Texans harms both public safety and civil liberties. Even after HB 823, Texans still are subjected to stop, interrogation and possible arrest. The 80th Texas Legislature should end the confusion by changing that "presumption" to a definition and requiring written consent for searches at Texas traffic stops.
And odd combination? Perhaps. But perhaps not. From the NYT article:
Alice Tripp, the legislative director for the rifle association, conceded that the groups had been seen as an odd couple. "Everybody kind of went, ‘Oh my God, what’s the A.C.L.U. doing here with the gun people?’ " Ms. Tripp said. But she said they had found common ground on self-defense as an endangered liberty.
I myself am a member of the ACLU (even though I don't agree with the national organization's tendencies to see the 2nd Amendment as a 'collective right') and the NRA (even though I don't agree with a number of their policies) - because I see the two oganizations working to protect the Bill of Rights, which I consider to be both a progressive goal and in the best interested of the Democratic party.
Self defense is a basic liberty, and no tin-horn County Attorney should have the right to trample that liberty in non-compliance with the law of the state. It would be very much like a County Attorney in state where GLBT marriage is allowed telling police to arrest said couples if they lived together. Or a County Attorney telling police to arrest blacks who wanted to register to vote.