The us-regions House gave initial approval to a “constitutional carry” bill that would allow Texans to carry a handgun without a license.
Current Texas law requires gun owners to obtain a permit to carry their weapon in the open or in a concealed manner. House Bill 1927 passed 84-56 after several hours of emotional debate.
If approved, Texas would become the largest of 20 states that allow no-permit carry. The bill was spearheaded by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who said on the House floor: “It’s time to restore faith in law-abiding Texans.”
“This bill should be called common-sense carry,” he added. Schaefer argued that not everyone had the time and resources to obtain a permit. Obtaining a handgun license in Texas costs between $100 and $150, according to Schaeffer, and applicants must also go through criminal history and background checks. Those who commercially purchase guns will still have to undergo a background check.
Democrats, particularly those from districts near the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting, fought against the bill and offered nearly two dozen amendments, all of which failed.
They said they’d been hopeful of passing further gun control measures in the wake of the El Paso tragedy that left 23 dead. The Texas legislature did not meet in 2020, making this the first year gun bills have been brought forward since the shooting.
“Even knowing the political realities, I was hopeful,” said Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody, whose district is in El Paso. “But now here we are, the first legislative session back since then, and it’s another date that’s going to be burned into my heat.”
The House will need to give the bill another stamp of approval before sending it to the Senate, where its fate is less clear. No-permit carry bills have been filed in the Senate, but have never advanced. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not made “Constitutional carry” a priority, despite declaring Texas a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” state and backing other gun proposals.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate, in 2017 was hesitant of the legislation. He said in a radio interview at the time that “with all the police violence today we have in our state … law enforcement does not like the idea of anyone being able to walk down the street with a gun and they don’t know if they have a permit or not,” according to the Texas Tribune.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.