Guns

Bill To Allow ‘Constitutional Carry’ Of Firearms Gains Momentum In Texas House

Opponents, including firearm instructors and police, worry permitless carry would be a public safety risk.

In this Jan. 26, 2015 file photo, a supporter of open carry gun laws, wears a pistol as he prepares for a rally in support of open carry gun laws at the Capitol, in Austin, Texas. A new bill in the Texas House of Representatives would allow Texans to carry handguns without a license.

The Texas House of Representatives is set to debate a so-called “constitutional carry” bill that would allow Texans to carry handguns in public without a license.

State lawmakers recently voted House Bill 1927 out of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, and the full House is set to consider it on Thursday.

At a news conference at a Grapevine gun range Tuesday, Texas GOP chair Allen West said the rights granted by the Second Amendment are just as absolute as those in the First Amendment.

"How about a permit or ‘mother-may-I’ for freedom of speech, or freedom of expression, or freedom to assemble?" he asked.

Raul Camacho, chief firearm instructor at Safety Measures, disagreed with that thinking.

"Just like any other amendment that we have or any constitutional right that we have there's rules in place," he told Houston Public Media. "The logic that constitutional carry or any of the Bill of Rights that we have is absolute is incorrect."

Camacho is part of a group of license-to-carry instructors that voiced their opposition to constitutional carry bills on the steps of the Texas Capitol Tuesday. They were joined by members of law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Camacho and 52 other firearm instructors also sent a letter to members of the House urging them not to vote for any unlicensed carry bill.

“There is a reason why we have mandatory hunter’s safety courses and rules at shooting ranges – it should be no different in public,” the letter reads.

The letter also says many instructors would be put out of business if the bill is passed.

Critics of H.B. 1927 are concerned that under the law anyone who is currently disqualified from obtaining a handgun license would be able to carry guns, including those convicted of some violent offenses.

"We're talking about people who have records with domestic violence, we have people that have a record for assault, we have people with mental illness," Camacho said. "Do you really want all these people out here in public carrying guns?"

Currently, people can obtain a license to carry a handgun in Texas if they take a four-hour course by a licensed instructor to learn about the law, handgun use and safety and conflict resolution. They also need to demonstrate basic shooting ability by firing at a target.

In 2017, Texas reduced the fee for a license to carry to $40, down from $140.

Permitless carry has long been on the wish list for some gun owners, but so far attempts to make Texas a constitutional carry state have failed in the Legislature.

This year, proponents like their chances to get a bill passed, as more influential Republicans support the idea – including West and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

The bill would not impact background checks, which are required by federal law for gun purchases from commercial sellers. They are not required for private sales in most states, including Texas. This is often referred to as the “gun show loophole.”

If HB 1927 or a similar bill becomes law, Texas will join at least 19 other states with constitutional carry laws.

But Camacho said letting people carry guns without training threatens public safety.

"I would say 99% of the people out there don't have the skillset to respond properly if there's an active shooter situation in the vicinity," he said. "People who go to the range, all they're shooting, it's just a paper target. That does not qualify you (to be) ready to take on a bad guy."

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required

Share

Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

More Information