Legislation removing the requirement for Texas gun owners to hold a permit from the state in order to carry their firearms has finally been signed into law.
The bill’s passage was one of a few conservative victories during the most recent session. But the fight began long before this year.
A longtime Republican priority
Constitutional carry has been a top priority for the Republican Party of Texas and gun owners across the Lone Star State for a long time.
In fact, constitutional carry was the first “legislative priority” approved by the delegates to the Texas GOP’s convention a decade ago.
Even as the list of party priorities expanded to eight over the years, constitutional carry has remained one of the party’s top goals for the legislature, as 20 other states—including Vermont—enjoy some form of permitless carry.
Despite this fact, however, the bill had not received much traction in the Texas Legislature in recent sessions. In 2019, for example, the bill was sent by then-House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to a committee led by Democrat State Rep. Poncho Nevarez (Eagle Pass), where it was not even given a hearing. Bonnen himself even referred to supporters of the legislation as “fringe gun activists.”
That same year, the legislation was not even filed in the Texas Senate.
So entering the legislative session at the beginning of 2021, the fight to pass the bill looked like an uphill battle. As the session began, numerous bills were filed in the House to remove the permit requirement to carry handguns, while State Sen. Drew Springer (R–Muenster) filed similar legislation in the Senate.
The bill clears the Texas House
When committee assignments were announced in early February in the Texas House, new hope appeared for passing the bill.
Instead of appointing a Democrat to chair the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee that has traditionally blocked constitutional carry legislation in the past, House Speaker Dade Phelan appointed Republican State Rep. James White (Hillister).
White, a known supporter of constitutional carry who had previously filed a bill to implement it in a previous session, was joined on the committee by four Republicans who had been endorsed by Gun Owners of America, an organization that has heavily advocated for constitutional carry, including State Reps. Cole Hefner (Mt. Pleasant), Matt Schaefer (Tyler), Jared Patterson (Frisco), and Tony Tinderholt (Arlington).
Ultimately it was Schaefer’s House Bill 1927 that made its way out of the committee and onto the House floor.
On Thursday, April 15, after several hours of debate and attempts by opponents to derail the legislation, the bill passed the House by a vote of 84 in support and 56 in opposition.
While most Democrat efforts to amend the bill were rebuffed, so too were some efforts by Republicans to strengthen the bill. One amendment that would have lowered the age from 21 to 18, for example, was strongly rebuked.
Notably, the lone Republican to vote against the bill was State Rep. Morgan Meyer (R–Dallas), while some Democrats like State Rep. Leo Pacheco (San Antonio) and Terry Canales (Edinburg) joined Republicans in support of the legislation.
Trouble in the Senate?
With the bill having passed its first major hurdle, attention quickly turned to the other chamber.
Just a few days after the bill’s passage in the House, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the issue did not have enough votes to pass the Senate.
Almost instantly, activists began to light up Senators’ phone lines, demanding to know which Republicans were secretly blocking the bill behind the scenes.
Then, the Senate began to act.
Then, seemingly overnight, Patrick created a new committee called the Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues. The only bill referred to the committee? HB 1927, the constitutional carry bill that passed the House the week prior.
Patrick then promised a vote on the issue in the Senate, even if it didn’t have the votes to pass, a move that would be considered highly unusual in the chamber, where normally authors must show they have the votes to pass their bill before it is brought up for consideration.
Grassroots pressure results in victory
On May 5, the bill finally passed on an 18-31 party-line vote in the Senate. Due to amendments added in the Senate, the bill was sent to a conference committee, where members from House and Senate work to come to an agreement on which version of the bill will ultimately be sent to the governor.
On May 24, with just a week left in the session, the bill received final approval by both chambers.
In a signing ceremony at the Alamo in San Antonio on June 17, Gov. Greg Abbott ceremoniously gave his approval to seven pro-gun bills, including constitutional carry, making Texas the 21st state where law-abiding citizens are not forced to receive a permit from the state to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Though the path for the bill’s passage has been long, it was only for the pressure of citizen activists across the state that the bill became a reality.
HB 1927 will go into effect on September 21, 2021.