Although it’s the middle of early voting in primary elections and the legislature isn’t slated to gavel back until next January, the Texas Senate chamber was filled and lively on Wednesday as gun owners from across the Lone Star State traveled far and wide to voice their support for clawing back the state’s restrictive gun laws.
The interim charge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave to the State Affairs Committee in October of last year reads as follows:
Second Amendment: Examine Second Amendment legislation passed since the 84th Legislative Session including open carry, campus carry, and lowering the license-to-carry fee. Determine the impact these laws have made on furthering and protecting Second Amendment rights. Make recommendations that may further protect and enhance Texans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The recommendation from Patrick came at a time when he was under fire from the state’s gun-rights organizations and even the establishment-leaning National Rifle Association for his repeated calls for increased gun-control measures, such as government background checks for private firearms sales.
At the same time, the Select Committee on Mass Violence and Community Safety was formed, which has been traveling the state to take testimony on proposals to stifle the gun rights of citizens in the wake of some high-profile shootings in Texas.
Constitutional carry legislation, which would end the state’s requirement for Texans to receive the government’s permission to exercise their right to keep and bear arms in public, was a big topic of discussion among those that attended the hearing. Despite being a legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas for the past several legislative sessions, the bill has yet to reach the floor of either chamber. Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen assigned the legislation to a Democrat-led committee in 2019, effectively killing it, while not a single senator even filed the bill.
Citizens showed up to the Capitol to say they had enough of lawmakers dragging their feet. Additionally, many testifying said they wanted an end to gun-free zones, including K-12 schools.
Spearheaded by Gun Owners of America, representatives from True Texas Project, Texas Freedom Force, Gun Owners of America, National Rifle Association, Open Carry Texas, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Young Conservatives of Texas, and other organizations showed up in force to rail against current gun restrictions in Texas.
Even some candidates for office took a break from early voting to show up and testify, including Aaron Reitz, who is running for Texas House District 47, and Wesley Virdell, a candidate for Texas’ 11th Congressional District.
Rachel Malone, the Texas director of Gun Owners of America, told the members of the committee that she appreciated the steps the legislature had taken to allow for campus carry and licensed open carry, but it wasn’t enough.
“Texans are reaching out to me in overwhelming numbers like you’re seeing today, and they want to know what’s it going to take for Texas to catch up with other states? What’s it going to take to move forward with freedom?” she asked.
State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood), who serves on the committee, gave a closing statement after public testimony, saying he agreed with the gun-rights activists who had testified.
“I’ve heard some very compelling, compassionate, and fact-based testimony,” Hall said to his colleagues, “for us to catch up with some 20 or 30 other states that have more respect for their citizens to allow them more freedom in being able to defend themselves.”
It is not known at this time if the Senate State Affairs Committee will hold another interim hearing on the Second Amendment before the next legislative session begins in January.