Photo: House Bill 1927 would eliminate the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not barred by state or federal law from possessing a gun. Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune
New ‘constitutional carry’ law would allow Texans to carry handguns without training or license.
A measure long sought by conservative activists allowing Texans to carry handguns without a license is on the cusp of becoming law after the Texas Senate approved a compromise on the bill Monday, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott.
“We should have ‘constitutional carry’ in Texas,” Abbott told North Texas radio host Rick Roberts in April.
“This is a simple restoration of Texans’ constitutional right under the Second Amendment, a right of the people to keep and bear arms,” the Senate sponsor, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said on the floor Monday. “I think it is a bill that is the strongest bill I’ve seen in my legislative career regarding the rights of our Second Amendment.”
House Bill 1927 would nix the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun.
The compromise keeps intact a number of changes the Senate made to the House bill to assuage concerns from the law enforcement community, including striking a provision that would have barred officers from questioning people based only on their possession of a handgun.
The deal also preserves a Senate amendment enhancing the criminal penalties for felons and family violence offenders caught carrying. Among other Senate changes that survived was a requirement that the Texas Department of Public Safety offer a free online course on gun safety.
Proponents of what Republicans call “constitutional carry” argue that Texas should follow the lead of at least 20 other states with similar laws on the books. Meanwhile, gun control advocates are sounding the alarm about making it easier to carry firearms after repeated instances of gun violence — including 2019’s massacres in El Paso and Midland-Odessa that left 30 people dead.
Under current state law, Texans must generally be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. Applicants must submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test. Texas does not require a license to openly carry a rifle in public.
Some Democratic Senators raised concerns Monday that the bill would endanger Texans and put at risk the state’s police officers.
“Are you aware there are a large number of families on both sides of the aisle who are literally afraid of your legislation?” asked state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.
Schwertner said “there is always a concern” surrounding legislation that deals with firearms and guns and that he “absolutely” thinks the bill will make Texas a safer place.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Republicans who were initially noncommittal about the bill were under immense political pressure this session from conservatives and gun rights advocates, who have long lobbied the Texas Legislature for permitless carry but historically struggled to win support. A solid majority of Texas voters don’t think permitless carry should be allowed, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Permitless carry saw a breakthrough in April when the House passed HB 1927. Patrick initially said the Senate did not have the votes for it, but he created a new committee, referred HB 1927 to it and got it to the floor, where it passed earlier this month. The Senate amendments initially alarmed some supporters of the proposal, with bill author Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, saying he was “very concerned” they could lead to procedural issues in the lower chamber.
Some El Paso lawmakers have denounced the bill, noting this is the first legislative session since the deadly mass shootings in 2019.
“All [El Paso community members] wanted was something better. All they wanted was some accountability. Yet here we are,” state Rep. Joe Moody, an El Paso Democrat, told colleagues on the floor Sunday. “When the doors were closed, I heard lots of promises. I haven’t heard them since.”
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Currently, in the Lone Star State, you can go to jail for peacefully walking down the street, minding your own business, with your handgun in a holster – simply because you failed to jump through government hoops and ask for a permit.
This is the case even if you have had extensive training, you are behaving in a perfectly safe manner, and you have never committed any other crime.
That’s because in 1871, the Texas Legislature banned the carry of handguns outside of one’s property. Although subsequent legislatures have carved out exceptions to the ban – most notably in 1995, instituting the License to Carry program to allow certain people carry in public – that general prohibition is still on the books.
By contrast, 32 other states recognize the right of anyone who can legally possess firearms to carry a handgun, openly (visible), in public, without having to obtain a permit. And 18 of those states don’t care whether your shirt is on the inside or outside of your gun; they welcome either open or concealed carry of handguns without a permit for legal gun owners.
Even right here in Texas, legal gun owners can carry rifles and shotguns in public without a permit.
To say that Texas is behind the curve on handgun carry is a gross exaggeration.
Although some legislators have touted “significant” gun rights wins in the past few years, that claim is laughable. The most far-reaching bill that has passed recently was licensed open carry – a bill in which Texas joined 44 other states who had already declared that license holders wouldn’t go to jail if their shirt was on the wrong side of their gun. That’s hardly monumental policy.
The last session’s most significant “win” for gun rights was Constitutional Carry for Disasters. Unfortunately, the bill was so narrow and insignificant that it failed to even apply at all during the ongoing pandemic disaster.
That’s why this Thursday’s hearing is so significant. Multiple Constitutional Carry bills are on the agenda. These bills would recognize the right of honest Texans – those who can legally possess a firearm – to carry a handgun, open or concealed, with no permit required.
In other words, you wouldn’t risk going to jail simply because you failed to jump through government hoops and ask permission before carrying your handgun.
Legislators are already receiving floods of emails and phone calls on these bills – from Texans on both sides of the issue. Because the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee has the authority to decide whether to move the bill forward, it is important for them to hear from Texans.
Fortunately, it is easier than ever this year for gun owners to voice an opinion.
As always, Texans can call or email the committee members. This is quick and easy; a staff member will take your call or read your email and record your position on the bills. It’s important to call and email because this helps legislators understand how many Texans actually want them to fight for gun rights.
This year, however, the Texas House has a new system allowing online comments. All Texans can submit written comments online in favor of Constitutional Carry bills (HB 1238, HB 1911, HB 1927, and HB 2900). The comment form is open from now until the end of the hearing. These comments become a part of public records after the hearing, so it is critical for gun owners to show a strong presence.
Also, anyone can sacrifice a day to come to Austin for the hearing can speak for 2 minutes to show support for Constitutional Carry bills. GOA Texas is coordinating carpools and keeping volunteers up-to-date via text messages when you let them know you want to attend the hearing. See their tips for writing your testimony.
This is your opportunity to look the committee members in the eyes, share your story, and tell them why it is critical for them to pass Constitutional for the safety and security of the great state of Texas. While it’s a big trip for some, it’s a trivial sacrifice in comparison to our Texian history of the Battle of Gonzales, the Alamo Defenders, and others who lived and died for the cause of liberty.
It’s no secret that Texas boasts millions of gun owners who most certainly claim to care about protecting their rights. Now is the time for them to show up and make their voice heard.
Gun Owners of America
Gun Owners of America has previously supported the right of members and staff to carry firearms on Capitol Hill for self-defense, as GOA supports the rights of all law-abiding citizens to carry firearms in their workplace. Gun Owners of America is a grassroots organization representing more than two million gun owners nationwide and is dedicated to protecting the right to keep and bear arms without compromise.
24 May 2021 | Nicholas Reimann | Forbes
A bill that would remove the need for a permit and training to carry a firearm in Texas is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk after getting final approval from the state Senate on Monday afternoon, clearing the way for Texas to become by far the largest permitless carry state in the country.
The state Senate approved the bill on a 17-13 party-line vote on Monday after the legislation won House approval Sunday evening.
Abbott, a Republican, said he plans to sign the bill into law.
Under existing law, Texans are required to receive a license and training—including a safety course and a shooting proficiency test—before carrying a handgun outside of the home or vehicle.
“I think it is a bill that is the strongest bill I’ve seen in my legislative career regarding the rights of our Second Amendment,” Senate sponsor Charles Schwertner (R) said Monday.
The bill has come under immense criticism from Democrats, who argue permitless carry will lead to more violence. State Rep. Joe Moody, of El Paso, is one of the Democrats speaking out against the bill. On the House floor Sunday, Moody recalled meeting with family members after a 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart, which targeted Hispanics and left 23 people dead. Democrats have also cited a 2019 spree shooting targeting the cities of Midland and Odessa among the reasons to oppose the bill.
Changing the Texas law to allow for permitless carry—also called constitutional carry—has been discussed for years, but efforts regularly failed to gather enough support to get anywhere in the Texas legislature. Even earlier in this legislative session, Republican leadership did not believe they had the votes to pass a bill. But pushing for permitless carry has become a popular trend in GOP-controlled legislatures across the country this year. According to CNN, five states have already passed legislation in 2021 that would allow for permitless carry—Tennessee, Utah, Iowa, Montana and Wyoming—while bills have been introduced in more than a dozen states to legalize permitless carry.
19. That’s how many states don’t require permits to carry a firearm, according to Statista. But most of those states are smaller, solidly red states. Arizona, which has less than a quarter of Texas’ population size, is the next largest state where permitless carry is allowed.