AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Thursday, the Texas House passed House Bill 1927 on an 84 to 56 initial vote, a bill that would allow Texans to carry a gun without a license.
The author of the bill, State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), along with other Republicans call it ‘constitutional carry’ and say it’s common-sense legislation.
“People who are prohibited from possessing a handgun will still be prohibited from possessing a handgun,” Schaefer said Thursday when the conversation on his bill began.
“True, but it’s a lot easier for a felon or someone who shouldn’t have a firearm to obtain that weapon and to carry it into a public space,” Texas Gun Sense Ed Scruggs countered, calling the bill dangerous.
Earlier this week, police associations across Texas united at the Capitol to announce their opposition to the bill and urge legislators to vote against it.
They said without a license requirement, it’s nearly impossible for an officer responding to an incident with a gun to know if it’s legally owned.
“If you’re a convicted felon, if you’re under the age of 21, if you have diagnosed violent mental disability, you cannot carry a gun. somebody’s got to enforce that,” Kevin Lawrence with the Texas Municipal Police Association said Thursday.
“We are not opposed to law-abiding Texans carrying guns. We just don’t think the vetting process should have to be done by a beat cop at 3 a.m. in the middle of an already-tenuous scenario,” Lawrence added.
Still, Republicans pushed the bill through, the same party that’s promoting ‘back the blue’ legislation this session.
“Here you have the public safety officers that you claim to fully support telling you, ‘this will make us less safe,’ and yet you’re going to ignore what they say,” Scruggs said, explaining this makes the bill seem more political than public-safety oriented.
But Schaefer said officers he’s spoken with in his district have told him they support the bill and that opposition isn’t anything new.
“Those same organizations said the same thing about the open carry law that we passed several years ago. And none of their predictions have come true,” Schaefer said on the House floor.
Texas Gun Owners of America pointed to statistics in Arizona, a state that passed similar legislation nearly a decade ago, in support of the bill.
“We have 20 other states across the country who have already passed some version of constitutional carry, one of the largest and most populous would be Arizona — they’ve had it for years. And the data shows that not only did their state licenses increase, but so did the amount of people getting training on it,” Felisha Bull, deputy director of TGOA, said Thursday.
Democrats expressed disappointment in the action on Thursday, pointing to the state’s most recent mass shootings in Bryan, Midland-Odessa and El Paso. They said this is the exact opposite type of gun legislation needed in Texas.
“What in the world is wrong with a license. We have a license to drive a car; we have a license to do so many things. A license is not an infringement of your first amendment rights. It’s just common sense. And it’s really disappointing that the Republicans have taken a strong party-line stance today to keep to really make it less safe in our state,” Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Dallas) said.
The bill will head to the Texas Senate next, after one more vote.