During the Covid-19 restricted spring session, Texas representatives found a way to pass one of the more surprising bills in recent history related to gun reform. Already with some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, Texas successfully passed a law that will make it legal to carry handguns without a permit. The bill, HB 1927, is hailed as a long fought victory for constitutional Republicans in Texas and an ambitiously regressive and dangerous bill for those on the left.
Unlike other sites that will simply say what the bill is about (maybe that’s all you care about), we try to emphasize how bills become laws and the unique importance of committees in their passage. While this bill was met with some opposition (which we’ll discuss), the bill successfully passed through all seven stages of the bill process and was signed by the Governor.
Who Wrote Texas’ Permit-less Carry Law?
The bill had more than a dozen co-authors but five representatives who officially proposed it. Those five in order include Matt Schaefer of District 6 (Arlington and South of Dallas). Dustin Burrows of District 83 in West Texas, Rep. Terry Canales of District 40 (mostly Hidalgo County), Rep. Ryan Guillen (a democrat from District 31) and James White of District 19.
House Committee and Vote
As the bill is given the bill number HB 1927, this tells us that the bill was first introduced in the Texas House of Representatives. The bill was assigned to the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety. The chair of that committee is, as you might have suspected, Rep. James White. Additionally Rep. Matt Schaefer, who served as one of the principle authors of the bill, also sits on the committee. The house committee vote was 6 in favor, 3 nays with no member reporting absent or abstaining from the vote.
With this the bill successfully passed the house committee on April 12th, 2021 and went to house floor for debate and vote. The house would vote on the bill less than a week later (record 298) with the final tally being 87 in favor, 58 nays, and 2 present but not voting. An interesting note, Rep. Pacheco would stay say that he was listed as voting yes and that he in fact wanted to vote no.
Senate Committee and Vote
After passing the House the bill then went Senate Committee on Constitutional Issues, chaired by Sen. Charles Schwertner. The bill would pass through the senate committee with a vote of 5 yes and 2 no. The bill officially made it out of the Senate committee on April 30th, 2021. A flurry of activity related to proposed amendments of the bill were requested and denied before the bill finally came to a vote on the senate floor. This vote took place on May 5th, with very little time to spare before the session (87R ) was adjourned.
In an extremely last second, down to the minute vote on th emotion of Senator Schwertner who had helped broker a deal that would become the final bill, the bill passed with a narrow 17 to 13 vote.
After the passing out of Senate, the bill went to the Governor’s desk where he was expected to sign it. Indeed he did on June 16th, 2021 thereby sealing the fate of a bill that would certainly become law. For note, the Governor to sign this bill was Governor Greg Abbott (assumed office January, 2015).
When Does The Law Go Into Effect?
This bill will go into effect on September 1st, 2021. Prior to that date, open carry of handguns without a license is still illegal in the state of Texas. However as the effective date quickly approaches, we would not expect to see a tremendous amount of enforcement out of local police. Now let’s move to opinions, takes and reactions on the new bill as it is set to become law.
As with any bill on a hot button and emotionally charged topic such as gun control, there is quite a bit of opinions coming from local, state and national sources as conflicting opinions emerge. We’ll attempt to be as fair and objective in reporting these opinions by drawing from different sources across the political spectrum. You can read the official committee report here that displayed the group of “experts” that testified both for and against the passage of the bill.
Those in favor of the bill held to standard arguments gun activists are routinely in favor of: existing regulations prevent responsible citizens owning guns through a series of legal loopholes. The language of this bill, however, was more focused on the constitutional right that citizens of Texas have towards owning firearms. Additionally, the bill would not prevent private businesses from prohibiting open carry in their store. They, the businesses, would need only display clear signage on the outside of the building that bringing a gun into the facility is illegal.
As noted by the House Research Organization in their official brief on the bill “a handgun license holder may
not carry a concealed handgun or openly carry a handgun on another’s property without consent if the license holder receives oral or written notice that entry on the property by a license holder is forbidden.”-Penal Code secs. 30.06 and 30.07 (good to know this is literally what the law says).
Critics of the bill would point to three existing areas of the law that prevent reckless gun ownership. Those three existing mechanisms are the required background check, safety training class, and proficiency tests that Texas citizens must pass prior to carrying a handgun in public.
Furthermore in 2019, the last year data was available from the CDC, Texas had the most deaths by firearms in the country with 3,683 deaths. California, a more populous state, had only 2,945. However in fairness, Texas is not even in the top 20 when looking at the Death Rate (deaths but accounting for population). The states with the highest numbers in that area were, in order, Alaska (1st), Mississippi (2nd), and Wyoming (3rd), all with death rates over 22.3.
Impact On Campus Carry
Very important to note that campus carry was specifically given reference to in the bill (and the surrounding debate about the bill). The right to be able to bring a handgun on Campus still must have an LTC (license to carry). Additionally, as The Texan pointed out, individuals cannot openly carry if they are intoxicated. We thought this would be relevant to campus carry.