Constitutional carry passed a major milestone on Wednesday.
A legislative priority of the Republican of Texas, constitutional carry would allow citizens to exercise their right to bear arms by removing the requirement for a license to carry handguns.
In a meeting that lasted more than eight hours, the Texas Senate considered House Bill 1927, authored by State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler). State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown) is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. The measure ultimately passed by a vote of 18 in favor and 13 in opposition.
The debate lasted a few hours and seemingly was largely orchestrated behind the scenes. More than 25 amendments were offered, and only eight were adopted by the end of the debate.
One amendment that was added would prohibit an individual from carrying a handgun if they have also been convicted of disorderly conduct with a firearm, deadly conduct, terroristic threat, or an assault resulting in bodily injury in the last five years. Sources say this amendment might make the bill subject to a point of order, potentially delaying its eventual consideration back in the House.
Another amendment, by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury), added that it was an offense to carry a handgun in a public place while intoxicated.
Other amendments that were adopted were authored by Schwertner himself. One enhanced criminal penalties for felons in possession of a firearm to that of a second-degree felony with a five-year minimum of mandatory jail time; it would increase it to a third-degree felony for those already convicted of a Class A family violence misdemeanor.
Another amendment removes what Schwertner called the “savings clause,” which would have helped people who in good faith carried a handgun into a prohibited place by law without allowing them to correct their mistake by leaving the premises immediately.
Schwertner also amended the bill by stripping language originally added by State Reps. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and Harold Dutton (D-Houston) when the bill was being deliberated in the House. The language in question dealt with record expungement as well as codification of case law stating that law enforcement could not stop someone merely for carrying a handgun, without also having reasonable suspicion.
Brief History This Session
The bill passed the Texas House of Representatives on April 16 by a vote of 87 in favor and 58 in opposition.
Since its passage, the Texas Senate left activists confused as to its prospects in the Senate due to a week full of odd events, including the filing of a completely new similar bill and the creation of a new Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues. It was unclear as to where individual senators stood on the issue and, after immense pressure from activists across Texas, their positions became increasingly public, culminating in the bill being voted on by the overall Senate.
Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it will be up to the House of Representatives to decide whether it accepts the changes or whether it will appoint a conference committee to debate the differences.
Timing is crucial, however. With fewer than 26 days left in the 140-day legislative session, in the event a conference committee is appointed, both chambers will have to accept the conference committee report in order to get the bill to the governor’s desk.