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Texas State Capitol visitors can now skip security checkpoints without concealed weapon permit

The Republic
By The Associated Press

Texas State Capitol Building








AUSTIN, Texas — Texas State Capitol visitors who don’t want to go through security checkpoints can now do so without a concealed handgun permit.

The San Antonio Express News reported (bit.ly/P9nT0W) Saturday that anyone can pay $100, plus processing and fingerprinting fees, to apply for a pass allowing the expedited entry that gun permit-holders have.

They have to meet the same eligibility requirements as those who have gun permits, including a background check. But they don’t have to pay extra for a handgun class or demonstrate gun proficiency.

A number of frequent Capitol visitors had previously secured gun permits after metal detectors were installed and searches implemented in recent years, even if they didn’t intend to carry guns. They included lobbyists and journalists simply looking to avoid delays.

“I don’t think people ought to be carrying guns in the Capitol.

Since I was never going to carry a gun, getting a concealed handgun license so that I’d get a fast pass through the Capitol seemed to me to be a fraud on the state,” Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, a group that advocates renewable energy sources, told the Express News.

The new program, known as the Capitol Access Pass, is rooted in the idea that people who undergo background checks and meet eligibility requirements — such as never having been convicted of a felony — don’t pose the same security risk as people who just walk into the Capitol, the newspaper reported.

“There were days when if you didn’t have that pass, you would have spent an hour trying to get into the Capitol,” lobbyist Bill Miller told the Express News.

The new pass isn’t a separate card but will allow people to use their Texas driver’s licenses or state identification cards to go around security checkpoints at Capitol building entrances.

Just 44 applications for passes have been approved since the Texas Department of Public Safety began taking them in June, according to the agency. The pace is expected to pick up as the January start of the 2013 regular session nears.

The pass costs just under $120, including the $100 application fee, a $9.41 administrative and processing fee plus $9.95 for fingerprinting, according to the Express News.