A top priority for the Republican Party of Texas and gun owners across the Lone Star State for over a decade, efforts to eliminate the requirement of a state gun permit were once again defeated in this past legislative session.
As he had in previous sessions, State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) led the effort to pass constitutional carry—filing House Bill 357, which would end the state’s requirement for Texans to receive permission from the government to exercise their right to keep and bear arms in public.
Unfortunately for Second Amendment advocates, no similar legislation was even filed in the Texas Senate, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has never been warm to the idea.
Stickland’s legislation was referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety—a committee House Speaker Dennis Bonnen appointed State Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D–Eagle Pass) to chair.
Nevarez was a known opponent of constitutional carry with a record of bristling with the issue’s supporters and fighting against the measure. Nonetheless, Nevarez promised to hold a hearing on the bill.
Nevarez then reneged on the deal.
In March, Stickland aired his grievance with Nevarez on Facebook.
Rachel Malone, the Texas director for Gun Owners of America, summarized gun rights supporters’ frustration with the failure of the Texas Legislature to move the legislation.
“I am strongly disappointed that Texas leadership has failed to prioritize constitutional carry. Texas continues to lag behind in recognizing the individual right to keep and bear arms,” she told Texas Scorecard at the time. “While the majority of states allow some form of permitless handgun carry outside of one’s domain, Texas still requires a government permit.”
“It is unacceptable that this bill is still languishing without being moved out of committee. Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen, it’s time for you to take action and stand strong for human rights by prioritizing passage of constitutional carry,” she added.
In the hopes of engaging citizens and enlisting them to pressure their lawmakers to pass constitutional carry, many of the bill’s supporters began going door to door in lawmakers’ neighborhoods in an effort to inform and engage their constituents.
One such individual was Chris McNutt, the state director of Texas Gun Rights, who knocked doors in Bonnen’s own neighborhood. Bonnen attacked McNutt for doing so, saying his actions were a demonstration of “insanity” and calling him an “overzealous advocate for criminals to get a gun.”
He also waged a media campaign that painted a picture of McNutt as a hostile activist banging down Bonnen’s door and used the action to declare constitutional carry dead in the Texas Legislature.
Body-cam footage later obtained from Department of Public Safety officers stationed outside Bonnen’s home, however, revealed a different story, showing a polite McNutt engaging with DPS and respectfully explaining the issue. Officers even offered to place one of his flyers on Bonnen’s door.
But despite that video, and little evidence to the contrary, Bonnen instead decided to ramp up his opposition to constitutional carry.
“These individuals—many of which do not even live in our district—are making a last-ditch effort to manufacture support for legislation that would allow anyone—including criminals—to carry a gun without a license and proper safety training,” he said in a Facebook post.
As long as House Speaker Dennis Bonnen believes one of the top priorities of the Republican Party of Texas is “fringe” and outright opposes it, it’s hard to envision a way for the legislation to pass the Texas Legislature.