Texas lawmakers advance permitless carry bill

Lawmakers in the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would allow lawful gun owners to carry handguns without a permit.

Five Republicans voted for the measure, House Bill 1911, and two Democrats voted against it, the American-Statesman reported.

The bill underwent some changes from its original version. Now to carry without a permit, individuals would have to meet the same requirements currently in place to obtain a permit. Gun owners must be 21 or older and eligible to purchase a firearm under federal and state law.

Guns would no longer be prohibited from churches and places of worship, but signs banning guns would still be allowed to be posted in those places.

Openly carried guns must be holstered, but the modified version of the bill does not specify a belt or shoulder holster.

Campus carry laws would not be changed by the bill, said Republican Rep. Phil King.

“This bill simply creates an unlicensed option to carrying a handgun,” said King, chairman of the committee.

Another permitless carry bill — House Bill 375, favored by gun rights advocates — was not voted on by the committee. King said the committee was waiting on requested changes before voting on the bill, but the proposal’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland, said he would not be amending it.

“I’m not going to water it down. He knows that,” Stickland said on Twitter.

Despite House Bill 1911’s restrictions, all Republicans on the committee voted for the measure, including Rep. John Wray.

“I’m voting for it, and I’m proud to do so,” said Wray. “It’s the first bill to be voted on in the Texas House to allow permitless carry of a handgun.”

Wray also added that he plans on working “to dial in 1911 to rectify restrictions on permitless carry” before a vote occurs on the House floor.

Democratic Rep. Gina Hinojosa vehemently opposed the bill and said her office had received numerous calls and emails from constituents opposed to permitless carry.

“I am concerned that this bill will make it harder for our law enforcement officers to do the job that we entrust them with, and that is to keep us safe,” Hinojosa said.