A key legislative panel on Thursday approved a measure that would make Texas the largest state in the country to recognize, "the United States Constitution as our permit to carry."
The specially formed Constitutional Issues Committee in the state Senate approved HB 1927 by an easy 5-2 vote, sending the proposal to the floor next week for further debate. The Republican-backed bill was approved 84-56 by the state House last week, roughly along party lines.
Supporters argue that opposition to the move towards permitless carry is hyperbolic and is only an incremental step from what is already legal in the Lone Star State. Texas already has 1.6 million who are licensed to carry, and Texans can carry in their vehicles without a permit.
"HB 1927 recognizes the United States Constitution as our permit to carry", said state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, one of the bill's sponsors. "It allows all law-abiding adults to carry a handgun for the protection of themselves and their families."
The proposal, one of no less than three filed in the state legislature so far this session, would allow Texans who were at least 21 years old and legally permitted to possess a handgun to carry one in a holster without first having to get a license.
Schwertner reiterated in the debate on HB 1927 that it would not change laws relating to possession of firearms and would keep the state's current permitting system in place for those who wanted to use it.
While a clean bill is headed to the floor, unchanged from the one green-lighted by the state House earlier this month, a host of proposed amendments could be added in the debate next week. The Republican also said proposed tweaks could include waiving the $40 handgun license fees, enhancing penalties for felons found illegally carrying firearms from two years to five, and creating a free online gun safety course.
Such compromises could be needed to pull all 18 Republicans off the bench in the chamber to get a win for the bill. Less than 18 votes won't do it.
Lt. Gov Dan Patrick told Dana Loesch on Thursday that he is still a few votes shy of a slam dunk but was "optimistic" HB 1927 would make it through the Senate and on to the desk of Gov. Gregg Abbott, who has signaled he is ready to sign it into law. Should that happen, Texas would be at least the 21st – and the most populous – state to recognize broad permitless carry practices.