The Republican-controlled Texas legislature over the weekend gave final approval to a bill allowing those in the Lone Star State to carry handguns without a license during an emergency.
The proposal, HB 1177, would allow those complying with a mandatory evacuation order the ability to temporarily carry a handgun without first having to have a license. Approved with a reported one-vote majority as Democrats lined up against the measure, it now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for further review.
Texas requires License to Carry permits for both concealed and open carry and issued more than 340,000 LTCs last year alone. HB 1177 would teak state law to exempt an unlicensed person from the requirement if they are carrying while evacuating during a state of disaster. The period would be limited to 168 hours since the evacuation was ordered and only apply to those who can legally possess a firearm.
The bill was supported in its legislative process by Second Amendment groups such as the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, Open Carry Texas, and the Texas State Rifle Association. In opposition is the League of Women Voters of Texas and Texas Gun Sense, the latter a local gun control group.
The proposal is like one adopted in hurricane-prone Florida in 2015. The Sunshine State has a prohibition against concealed carry of a weapon without a permit and only narrow exceptions for open carry, such as while hunting or fishing. Neither state currently recognizes permitless or constitutional carry.
While Abbott, a Republican, has not commented on his planned actions on the evacuation carry bill, earlier this month he signed a tenant’s rights proposal backed by Second Amendment groups that bans “no firearms” clauses in residential leases. In the past, he has also signed measures in support of carry reform, campus carry and open carry.