After the mass shootings last year in El Paso and Odessa, many politicians called for stricter gun control policies — and many Texans concerned about Second Amendment infringements began pressing for their counties to become “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” by pledging not to enforce unconstitutional regulations.
With state legislators now able to file bills in advance of the upcoming legislative session, many of the proposed policies discussed last year have now been brought forward over the past few days of pre-filing.
The types of gun-related bills that have been submitted so far are mostly along partisan lines, with Republicans proposing bills to defend Second Amendment rights and Democrats proposing stricter firearm regulations.
Of the 36 gun-related bills proposed so far, eight have been put forward by Republicans.
Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) filed a bill that he first proposed to the legislature in 2013, which then-Attorney General Greg Abbott helped draft.
While the legislation passed the Texas House of Representatives after its third reading with 100 votes, it died in the Senate.
The bill, House Bill (HB) 112 or the Texas Firearm Protection Act, would prohibit law enforcement from enforcing federal measure “that purports to regulate a firearm, a firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition if the statute, order, rule, or regulation imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation, such as a capacity or size limitation, a registration requirement, or a background check, that does not exist under the laws of this state.”
Toth’s legislation comes at a time when former Vice President Joe Biden has been projected as the winner of the presidential election by national media outlets.
Biden’s campaign lists sweeping gun control proposals, including policies to limit individuals to one firearm purchase per month and ban all online sales of guns and ammunition.
“We’re obviously not concerned about the Trump administration and we know that they’ll defend and stand with us on the Second Amendment, but the ‘O-Biden’ administration has made it very clear that they’re coming after our guns. They’re gonna get a big ‘hell no’ out of Texas,” Toth told The Texan, calling a Biden administration “Obama 2.0.”
Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) has filed two bills relating to guns.
HB 26 would eliminate the governor’s authority under a disaster declaration to control the sale, transportation, and use of weapons and ammunition.
HB 55 would allow school marshals to carry and possess a concealed handgun by removing a requirement that marshals whose “primary duty [. . .] involves regular, direct contact with students” must not carry a handgun, but only possess it in “a locked and secured safe” at the school’s premises.
On the subject of school marshals, Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) also filed Senate Bill (SB) 158, which would waive the fee for “the issuance of a duplicate, modified, or renewed license to carry a handgun” for current marshals.
Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) submitted HB 276, which would expand protections for carrying handguns beyond active judges to include retired judges and government attorneys.
Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster), who is currently in a runoff election for Senate District 30 scheduled for December 19, filed two gun-related bills as well.
HB 299 would expand the list of exceptions for permitless carry of handguns to include anyone eligible for a License to Carry permit who is not a gang member, as long as the weapon is concealed or holstered.
His other legislation, HB 304, is nearly identical to a bill that Springer filed in 2015 and would effectively expand the locations where LTC holders are permitted to carry a handgun that are currently prohibited under state law.
Lastly, Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) filed a bill that would prohibit “red flag” laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders (ERPO).
Such laws allow courts to accept petitions requesting that firearms be confiscated because owners display “red flag” warning signs that they may use their guns to harm others or themselves.
Cain’s proposed legislation, HB 336, would prohibit the enforcement of any ERPOs.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who will be presiding over the state Senate in the upcoming session, has similarly voiced opposition to red flag laws, arguing instead for expanded background checks.
The other 28 gun bills that have been pre-filed thus far all come from Democrats and focus on measures to regulate firearms more strictly.
While the proposed legislation is wide-ranging, many of the bills prioritize the five goals outlined by the Texas House Democratic Caucus last year to:
- Enact extreme risk protection orders;
- Expand background checks;
- Ban the sale of high-capacity magazines;
- Limit the open carry of semi-automatic long guns;
- And require stolen guns to be reported to law enforcement.
In addition to legislation that would severely limit Texas’ stand-your-ground law, Rep. Terry Meza (D-Irving) pre-filed 12 gun-related bills — the most out of any member.
Meza’s bills range from the Democratic Caucus’ policies above to a bill that would allow local governments in the state to regulate guns and ammunition (HB 238), to a bill that would require all loaded firearms to be stored in a locked container (HB 185).
“Requiring background checks for all firearm sales and transfers is an important step towards preventing firearms from being transferred to those who should not possess them,” said Ortega in a press release. “Closing this loophole will make Texans safer from gun violence and save lives.”
Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) pre-filed three gun bills: HB 213 to limit the carry of firearms other than handguns, HB 236 to create Spanish translations of the signs prohibiting open and concealed carry, and HB 245 to require anyone selling or exchanging a firearm at a gun show of three or more people to perform a background check.
Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) pre-filed HB 52, a similar bill related to background checks at gun shows
Rep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso) pre-filed HB 521 to create “a voluntary registry of individuals experiencing mental illness who waive the right to purchase or receive transfer of a firearm.”
Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) submitted HB 328 to designate June as “Firearm Safety Awareness Month.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.