Is the window for constitutional carry closing in the Texas Legislature? According to the bill’s author, it may be.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) took to Facebook last week to sound off on the stalling of House leadership as it pertains to his legislation, House Bill 357, which would end the state’s requirement for Texans to receive permission from government to exercise their right to bear arms in public.
The March 18 post indicated Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee Chairman Poncho Nevarez (D–Eagle Pass), an appointee of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, had told Stickland directly he was uncertain the bill would receive a public hearing at all. Even if it did, whether it would come soon enough to beat the 30-day calendar requirement to reach the floor was also uncertain, possibly providing a cop-out for leadership looking to absolve themselves of responsibility on the campaign trail next spring in Republican primary contests.
Now, several authors or coauthors in the Texas House are telling Texas Scorecard they have encouraged Nevarez to hold a hearing for the public to be able to voice their support and to allow the committee to vote on the bill.
“I firmly believe HB 357 should be brought up for a hearing and a vote before the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety,” said Rep. Dewayne Burns (R–Cleburne). “I have consistently encouraged Chairman Nevarez to bring the bill forward, and hope he will do so,” Burns said.
State Rep. Mike Lang (R–Granbury), a conservative colleague of Stickland, said: “I will do everything that I can to move HB 357.”
“I am very proud to coauthor House Bill 357, which restores basic constitutional rights to law-abiding Texans,” said freshman State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco). “The time to pass constitutional carry into law is now.”
Some of the state’s largest gun rights advocacy organizations are saying responsibility for the stalling falls on Bonnen, who they criticized when he announced his committee assignments for retaining the Straus policy of appointing chairmanships proportionally with the party affiliation of the chamber—which led to skepticism about his stance on Second Amendment issues, given the Nevarez chairmanship.
Many conservatives are now focusing their criticism. Rachel Malone, Texas director for Gun Owners of America, said Texans should be frustrated with the state’s elected leaders.
“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. 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. Governor 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.”
But as the session approaches full steam, the potential of failure on lawmakers to address these legislative priorities increases each day. Those members desperate to tackle the issue on behalf of the hard-working activists who helped elect them better move quickly if they intend to go back to their districts with more than lip service next March and November.
Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park), a coauthor of the bill and a grassroots conservative in the chamber, said lawmakers, especially those within House leadership, should work to ensure the people are given the forum to voice their opinions on the priority in a timely manner.
“The rights of law-abiding Texans are on the line, and I think the members took an oath to protect and secure those rights,” Cain said. “The members of this body were given a mandate by the grassroots conservatives of this state to expand our Second Amendment rights, and I think we need to maintain our promises from the campaign to our constituents.”