AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is closer than ever to allowing handguns to be carried without a license. In a historic 18-13 vote, Senate Republicans approved the measure after hours of debate on Wednesday.
All Democrats voted against. Just days ago, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he’s still rounding up the votes, but it looks as if there are GOP senators on the fence.
They changed their minds after agreeing to several amendments, such as a ban on carrying a handgun if they’ve recently been convicted of murderous driving or assault. It’s still unclear what will remain in the final version that will head to Governor Greg Abbott’s office.
House Bill 1927, which has already passed the lower house on a bipartisan basis, would allow the ability to carry a handgun without a license. If Texas adopts license-free portering, it will join at least 20 other states with similar legislation.
“People still need to understand gun laws, gun ownership, proper storage and handling of a gun, in this case a handgun, and I trust our citizens,” said Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who carries the bill. on the side of the Senate.
Proponents of the measure want to expand Texas law already in place, largely allowing the unlicensed carrying of long-arm firearms, as well as the possession of handguns in homes or cars.
“It’s not going to be a mad rush of people who don’t have a gun today, rush to the gun store to buy a gun to holster and walk down the street. The vast majority , the people we’re going to see with this are the people who commute in their cars every day. They’re exercising the law of the castle,” said Sen. Drew Springer, R-Weatherford.
Proponents of the bill said the proposal does not change provisions regarding the purchase of handguns and who is called to carry in the first place. In order to obtain a transport license, Texans must be at least 21 years old, not convicted of a crime and not “chemically dependent”.
“I would say it’s a matter of life and death for some people,” Schwertner said during online questioning by Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas.
“I understand that’s your feeling and sincere belief, can’t they just get a permit?” Johnson responded in response.
But those arguments around accountability offered few guarantees to Democratic security lawmakers.
“What does a law-abiding citizen look like?” asked Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. “This is a serious matter. You keep saying that we are restoring constitutional privilege, privileges and rights to law-abiding citizens. Well, unfortunately, not everyone is a law-abiding citizen. .”
Senate Democrats also pointed to concerns among some law enforcement officials about the difference between who is transporting illegally and who is not.
“I want to know that if they draw that gun, they know what they’re doing with it, and I know police officers across the state of Texas want to understand that,” said Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth , said.
Compared to the Texas House, senators amended the bill even more. It contains a limitation of those convicted of certain offenses in the past five years and increased sentences for those convicted of domestic violence. These are changes that likely added supporters to the bill and led to eventual passage in the Senate.
“I’m really worried about this, I’m really worried about our victims of domestic violence,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.
If the House opposes the Senate changes, there will be a joint committee with members of both houses meeting to iron out the differences.