After constitutional carry languished without any action for the duration of last session and three months of the current session, advocates finally had a chance to officially make their voices heard at the Texas Capitol.
On Tuesday, the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee heard testimony on two items of legislation that would repeal the licensing requirement for Texans to carry a handgun, HB 375 by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) and HB 1911 by State Rep. James White (R–Woodville).
Stickland’s HB 375 is the stronger legislation. In short, if his legislation passes, any individual who can legally own a firearm can carry openly or concealed. It’s also supported by the bolder and braver Second Amendment organizations.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and Texas State Rifle Association are supporting White’s HB 1911. Substantially weaker than Stickland’s proposal, HB 1911 basically allows anyone who would be eligible to obtain an LTC to carry without one.
Though Second Amendment advocates admit that the committee substitute to HB 1911 is substantially improved and would have the practical effect of constitutional carry for 95 percent of Texans, the legislation as written still excludes a hefty number of citizens.
“We have a good conversation going with Rep. White and he has adopted many necessary changes,” said Chris McNutt of Texas Gun Rights. “We still have a few serious concerns yet with the legislation, but we are very excited to continue that conversation moving forward.”
Testimony on the legislation took much of the afternoon with hundreds of citizens testifying in favor of the bill. Lone Star Gun Rights even delivered 70,000 petitions from Texas citizens in support. However, the legislation was not without opposition. The Michael Bloomberg-funded anti-gun group Moms Demand Action arrived en masse as well, testifying against both bills.
With so many citizens engaged on the legislation, and a female activist being arrested for attempting to record different committee proceedings only last week, eyes were on committee chairman Phil King (R–Weatherford) and how he would conduct the hearing. Fortunately, citizens were pleasantly surprised with King’s amicable demeanor and what appeared to be good faith efforts to allow them to record and testify.
“I want to personally and publicly thank Chairman King for being so open to dialogue, shooting straight with me, and allowing this bill to finally have its day,” said Stickland in his opening remarks on the legislation.
“This bill means a lot to me because it means so much to my constituents and Texans everywhere. I have yet to see any other bill muster up the level of passion and support that constitutional carry has,” he continued.
While neither HB 375 nor HB 1911 were voted out of committee at the meeting, one or both of the measures is expected to be voted out soon. The legislation will then proceed to the House Calendars Committee where passage is anything but assured.