Support Bill to Post Prohibition of Guns at State Mental Health Hospitals

TMA Testimony Presented by Clifford Moy, MD

House Public Health Committee
House Bill 14 Testimony

March 7, 2017

Good morning, Chair Price and members of the committee. My name is Dr. Clifford Moy. I am a board-certified psychiatrist and fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and the medical director of behavioral health for TMF Health Quality Institute. I served as the clinical director at Austin State Hospital from 1995 – 2005. I also am a former speaker of the Texas Medical Association House of Delegates. I am here today representing more than 50,000 physicians, psychiatrists, and medical students of the Texas Medical Association and the Federation of Texas Psychiatry in support of House Bill 14.

House Bill 14 is carefully crafted legislation to allow the Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS’) to post signage in state mental health hospitals to prohibit guns in these facilities. The bill is specific to the 10 state mental health hospitals in Texas, and it was developed in consultation with many organizations, including leading gun rights organizations in Texas.

The origins of the current situation allowing guns in state mental health hospitals are a little unclear. In 1995, when the legislature passed the concealed-carry statutes, Texans were barred from carrying guns into hospitals “licensed under Chapter 241, Health and Safety Code.” Although this stipulation does not apply to state mental health hospitals, sometime over the intervening decades, signage was posted barring guns in these hospitals as well. Through our digging, it seems perhaps no one understood the law did not allow those signs to be posted.

Nevertheless, state mental health hospitals are state entities, even though they are not licensed under Chapter 241 of the Health and Safety Code. When legislation was passed in 2015 adding penalties for improper signage, DSHS authorities followed the law and took down the signs.

HB 14 closes that loophole and restores the no-guns-in-hospitals footprint to what most of us thought it was prior to 2015. The bill specifically lists the facilities to which it applies. It allows DSHS to post new signage to prohibit guns in the facilities. Moreover, it creates a civil — not criminal — penalty for violators.

The Texas Medical Association and the Federation of Texas Psychiatry strongly support this narrowly tailored legislation, and we encourage your favorable consideration.

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Last Updated On

March 07, 2017

Originally Published On

March 07, 2017