A bill to enact “constitutional carry” in Texas, which would allow individuals 21 years or older to carry a handgun in public without a permit, was approved by the state House.
DANIEL FRIEND: The Texan
Those restrictions stayed in the law books until the 1990s when a handgun license program was first created. Now, GOP lawmakers in the Lone Star State — with support from a few Democrats — are seeking to take the pro-Second Amendment policies one step further in the form of a “constitutional carry” bill.
On Thursday, the lower chamber voted in favor of House Bill (HB) 1927 from Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) to allow individuals who are 21 years or older and are legally permitted to possess a firearm to carry a handgun in public without a permit. The House approved HB 1927 in a 84 to 56 vote. Following another formal vote tomorrow, the legislation will be sent to the Senate.
If passed by the Senate in the current form, it would leave in place other parts of gun laws in Texas. For instance, HB 1927 would not change the current regulations surrounding who can purchase a firearm such as the background check requirement to purchase a weapon or the so-called “gun-free zones” where carrying a firearm is prohibited. The legislation would also leave in place the License to Carry (LTC) program, though an LTC would not be needed to carry in most places.
Several Democrats offered amendments on the legislation, though the majority were shot down. Citing the El Paso shooting in 2019, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), offered an amendment that would effectively kill the bill. “April 15, 2021, is the date where we did nothing at all once again,” said Moody. The amendment failed in a 79 to 63 vote.
Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) offered an amendment that would lower the age for a person to carry a handgun without a permit under the bill to 18, but that proposal was opposed heartily by the chamber — including by Schaefer, who argued that it would hurt the chances of the bill becoming law — in a 121 to 12 vote. In an 88 to 52 vote, the chamber adopted an amendment from Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Canton) to allow parents of foster children to carry a firearm in a car with the child, something currently reserved for LTC holders.
HB 1927 will have one more final vote in the House before it will be sent to the Texas Senate for further consideration. Similar constitutional carry proposals have been filed in the Senate, where they were referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee but have not been heard. The legislation has the support of the Republican Party of Texas — which has named it as one of its legislative priorities — as well as gun rights activists such as organizations including Gun Owners of America.
But the proposal has also met stiff opposition from gun control advocates and some law enforcement officials from Texas’ largest cities. Opponents of the legislation argue that removing the requirement for a license would make it easier for criminals to carry firearms. “Permitless carry would eliminate an important tool to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, gambling the safety and integrity of Texas communities and the Texas Capitol,” said Texas Gun Sense, a pro-gun control organization.
But proponents of the measure dismiss the argument, saying that criminals already ignore the LTC program. “By definition criminals don’t follow the law. So if they want to carry, they are not going to stop and look up the law, and see if they’re allowed to carry a firearm,” Felisha Bull, the Texas deputy director for GOA, told The Texan. “All this legislation does is put honest, law-abiding citizens who can already possess a firearm on level playing ground with the criminals who are already going to do whatever they want,” said Bull.
This is the first year that a chamber in the Texas legislature approved a constitutional carry bill. While the proposal went through with wide Republican support in the House, how the legislation will fare in the Senate remains to be seen. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the upper chamber, has historically been shy on pro-Second Amendment policies. After the shootings in Texas in 2019, Patrick doubled-down on calling for expanded background checks in opposition to a resolution opposing such policies that was adopted unanimously by the Texas State Republican Executive Committee.
However, other pro-gun measures — such as legislation to prohibit government contracts with businesses that discriminate against firearm businesses and a repeal of the ability to regulate guns under the Texas Disaster Act — have made progress in the Senate. Constitutional carry is still a hot-button issue, but with growing political pressure to adopt the proposal — even from the National Rifle Association, the organization Republicans frequently tout endorsements from on the campaign trail — 2021 could still be the year that it becomes law in Texas. Now that the House has signaled approval of the measure, the ball is in Patrick’s court.