The Lone Star State could be the largest in the country to codify the right to carry a concealed handgun without a permit if a bill filed this week becomes law.
Republican state Rep. Jonathan Stickland on Wednesday pre-filed a measure to strike the state’s framework for a concealed carry permit entirely. This would allow all adults otherwise lawfully able to possess a firearm under federal and Texas laws to carry one concealed without a permit.
“This is meant to restore the constitutional rights of Texans to be able to carry a firearm without being forced to take a government-mandated test and pay a fee,” Stickland said in an interview with local media.
His bill, HB 375, is largely a repeat of legislation he filed last session that failed to gain traction.
This proposed move, commonly called constitutional carry, would elevate the state to the same club that Vermont started and 10 other states have joined in recent years including both Missouri — by veto override — and Mississippi in the past few months.
In an effort to overturn a ban on the carry of weapons outside of the home just after the Civil War, Texas lawmakers sent a permitting scheme to bring lawful concealed carry to then-governor and later President George W. Bush, who approved the measure in 1995.
In the past two decades, the ranks of Texans with permits have swelled and by April 2016, some 1,017,618 had obtained one. When compared to the state’s population, this is one active permit per about 27 residents.
Earlier this year, Texas became the largest state in the country to implement the open carry of handguns — which by most accounts drew little to no complaints from the public despite forecasts from gun control advocates to the contrary.
Those same advocates are warming up to oppose Stickland’s bill.
“This legislation would make it legal for almost anyone — with no training or background check whatsoever — to carry a loaded handgun in public almost anywhere in Texas, including on college campuses,” Angela Turner, with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action, told Guns.com. “It strips away one of the few protections left to protect Texans from gun violence. As a gun owner, I have a lot of respect for guns. I also know that the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with common sense public safety laws that protect our families from senseless gun violence. That’s why I’ll keep standing up against dangerous proposals like permitless carry.”
For gun rights advocates, they feel the time is right to move on the proposal in 2017.
Since the last legislative session, the number of constitutional carry States has more than doubled from five to eleven,” Open Carry Texas President CJ Grisham told Guns.com late Friday. “As predicted, both open and campus carry have been non-issue. There is no reason why law abiding Texans can’t enjoy the same free access to exercise their rights as those other eleven States. Constitutional carry hasn’t been a problem there and it won’t be a problem here. Our legislators have no excuse against passing Representative Jonathan Stickland’s bill.”
While Democrats gained five seats in the upcoming session of the Texas House of Representatives, Republicans still hold a commanding 95-55 advantage in the chamber, as well as a 20-11 majority in the Senate, ensuring the GOP has a firm grasp on legislative priority when lawmakers meet in Austin next January.
Any bill approved would come under the scrutiny of Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who is “A” rated by the National Rifle Association and ran for office on a platform that included expanding gun rights.
Updated from the original with comment from Grisham