Texans would no longer need a state license to carry a handgun, either concealed or openly, under a measure approved by the Senate on Wednesday. With the amendments added by the Senate, the bill heads back to the House for further consideration.
Current law requires people to obtain a license from the state to carry a handgun, but bill sponsor and Georgetown Senator Charles Schwertner believes that is an artificial barrier to the exercise of a citizen's Second Amendment rights.
"HB 1927 would recognize the United States Constitution as our permit to carry and allow all law-abiding adults, aged 21 years or older, to carry a handgun for the protection of themselves or their families, in public places, in a holster, without the requirement of a state-issued license," he said.
Texas would become the 21st, and largest, state to adopt permitless carry.
Shwertner stressed that the bill would not change who can legally possess or purchase a firearm under state or federal laws.
"People who are prohibited from possessing a handgun will still be prohibited from possessing a handgun under this bill," he said. "Nothing in this bill regarding possession is changed.”
He also said it would not affect protected areas where carrying is currently prohibited, sales or purchases of handguns, laws related to long guns, or laws that permit private property owners from barring the carrying of weapons on their own premises. This means those with felony convictions or who are under protective orders for domestic violence would remain barred from carrying a firearm.
A number of amendments were added to address concerns from the law enforcement community and other senators. One amendment would enhance penalties for illegal carry of a handgun, raising the offense to a second degree felony with mandatory jail time for convicted felons and a third degree felony for those with a domestic violence conviction.
The bill was also amended to include a five-year prohibition on carrying that would apply to anyone convicted of certain violent misdemeanors or reckless use of a firearm.
Those opposed to the bill raised concerns about safeguards built into the licensing requirements would no longer keep guns out of the hands of those who aren't legally permitted to carry them. Austin Senator Sarah Eckhardt said that of the 2,269 license-to-carry applications rejected in 2020, 926 were for past criminal history.
"We won't have that filter anymore without the license," she said.
Schwertner argued that the increased criminal penalties for illegal carry amended into the bill will serve as a deterrent.
"Felons shouldn't carry in Texas after this law is passed," he said.
Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini said she didn't see this as an issue of rights, but one of convenience.
“HB 1927 would merely make it easier to carry a firearm legally in public, including by persons who should not,” she said.
Zaffirini said she worried the bill could increase the danger faced by law enforcement and place victims of domestic violence at greater risk.
“The licensing process allows us to ask critical questions before allowing the public carriage of a lethal weapon based on what can only be described as the mildest inconvenience,” she said.
In closing, Schwertner told colleagues that he believes that this bill will increase public safety.
“To me, this bill is about two things: the advancement of self-defense, and a belief in -and trust of- law-abiding citizens to avail themselves of their Second Amendment right to self-defend by carrying a sidearm,” he said. “I think this is an advancement that is going to improve safety both for the individual and society at large.”
With the amendments added by the Senate, the bill will now have to head back to the House for further consideration. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he would sign a permitless carry bill into law.