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Ardent supporters of the Second Amendment will be able to easily follow the progress of constitutional carry legislation in the 86th session of the Texas Legislature.

Recently, State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) filed a bill to allow permitless carry of a firearm, a Republican Party of Texas Legislative Priority, designating it House Bill 357. Conservatives and pro-gun Texans will recognize the bill number from the popular handgun caliber, .357 Magnum.

Known colloquially as “constitutional carry,” Stickland’s bill would allow Texans who can legally purchase and possess a firearm to carry that firearm openly or concealed without first obtaining an additional permit — eliminating the current requirement to complete a course and a pay a fee. However, the proposed legislation would not eliminate that process, allowing Texans to choose to obtain a License to Carry/Concealed Handgun License for interstate reciprocity or other purposes.

In June, grassroots leaders from every corner of the state descended upon San Antonio for the 2018 Republican Party of Texas Convention, celebrating the party’s 150th anniversary. Before heading home, delegates voted to charge legislators with tackling five legislative priorities in addition to a lengthy platform of conservative reforms.

Among those chosen was constitutional carry, the No. 1 priority heading out of the 2016 Convention and the subject of a resolution in 2014. The resolution, passed before the adoption of a formal list of legislative priorities, called for amendments and legislation making the “[removal of] restrictions on Texans’ right to own and bear arms a legislative priority” for the 84th Texas Legislature.

The most recent language, the 2018 charge to legislators, reads, “Pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.” It passed with over 92 percent of attendees voting to make it a priority.

Last session, Stickland authored and carried one version of constitutional carry which was ultimately left pending in the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee after receiving public testimony.

An alternate bill was authored by State Rep. James White (R–Hillister) and four other legislators. It didn’t fare much better, collecting 26 co-authors and passing out of committee before dying in the Texas House Calendars Committee, chaired by State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi).

Stickland’s HB 357 looks more like the latter, leaving room for improvement when it comes to cementing the Second Amendment rights to permitless carry for military-aged men and women under the age of 21 and college students wishing to secure their right to self-defense on college campuses.

Chris McNutt, executive director of the grassroots organization Texas Gun Rights, says Texans in favor of constitutional carry can approach the upcoming 86th legislative session with optimism.

“I feel good about our chances of getting a recorded vote in 2019,” he said. “After aggressive primary and general election accountability programs, there are more members of the Texas House on the record in support of constitutional carry than ever before.”

With the first day of session just a few weeks away, the ability of law-abiding Texans to exercise their Second Amendment rights more freely in the Lone Star State may be determined in the months ahead.

“Now, it’s just up to pro-gun Texans to continue piling the pressure on their politicians representing them in Austin to honor the promises and pro-gun pledges they made on the campaign trail,” McNutt added.

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