87th LegislatureGunsConstitutional Carry, 2nd Amendment Sanctuary, and Anti-Red Flag Laws: A Look at Pro-Gun Bills in Texas

Here is a detailed look at the pro-gun bills that members of the Texas House and Senate have filed so far this session.
January 29, 2021
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With a record number of guns sold last year and a new presidential administration that pledged increased gun control measures, bolstering Second Amendment rights is a target that the Republican-controlled legislature ostensibly has in its crosshairs.

What bills might actually be passed and become law by the end of the legislative session in May remains to be seen, but GOP lawmakers have filed a few dozen pro-gun bills.

Right-leaning candidates frequently tout their Second Amendment bonafides on the campaign trail, but in past legislative sessions, the centerpiece of pro-gun rhetoric — constitutional carry — has never seen the light of day.

The same has usually held true for the wide-sweeping gun control plans proposed by progressive legislators, such as so-called “assault weapons bans.”

Notably, though, in the wake of mass killings in El Paso and Odessa in 2019, some Republicans signaled a willingness to consider proposals of “red-flag” laws and “universal background checks.”

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With the interesting mix of current public sentiments, it is possible that either major pro-gun or major gun control legislation — or even both — will pass.

However, there are many less sensational bills that may have a higher likelihood of ending up on Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.

Here is a detailed look at both the major and the less dazzling pro-gun legislation that Republicans have introduced in the Texas legislature.

Constitutional Carry

Constitutional carry, which would eliminate the need for a License to Carry (LTC) to carry a handgun in Texas, has again been filed, so far in two different forms from Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) and Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood).

Under current law, in order to carry a handgun in public, a Texan must complete a course on firearm safety, a shooting proficiency test, and a background check.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), over 500,000 background checks were conducted on Texans who were applying for an LTC.

Sixteen other states, including Texas’ neighbors of Oklahoma and Arkansas, have passed some form of constitutional carry, and legislation recently passed the state Houses of Utah and Montana.

If the bills from Biedermann, Hall, or other lawmakers pass, Texas could join that list.

Biedermann’s bill, House Bill (HB) 1238, would amend the state’s penal code to effectively allow anyone who is eligible to possess a handgun to also carry it holstered or concealed.

“Talks to defund the police and rioting around the country all point to the need for Texans to have every ability to protect themselves and their families,” said Biedermann in a press release.

“Forcing our citizens to ask the government for permission to exercise this right reduces its status to a privilege, and then making us pay for it adds insult to injury.”

Meanwhile, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 24 from Hall proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would prohibit the state from requiring a citizen “to obtain a license or permit to wear arms.”

Then-Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) pre-filed a bill in November that would have expanded the list of exceptions for the permitless carry of handguns to include anyone eligible for an LTC.

On February 1, Springer brought that and 10 other pro-Second Amendment pieces of legislation to the Senate, including companion bills to many of the other pro-gun proposals filed in the House.

The Texas House Freedom Caucus also said that supporting constitutional carry is one of their legislative priorities during a recent press conference.

Other Carry Expansions

While constitutional carry would eliminate the requirements for an LTC, other legislation would also expand where weapons could be carried or who could carry weapons.

Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed two different bills that would affect the bars and restaurants where individuals can carry weapons.

Under current state law, LTC holders are prohibited from carrying at bars that have over 51 percent of their income derived from the sale of alcohol.

HB 1378 would exempt businesses that have a food and beverage certificate from the carry ban, and HB 1379 would raise the cap on alcohol sales defining a bar from 51 to 60 percent.

Aside from widening the places where guns could be carried, the bill would also have implications on other policies related to the 51-percent threshold, such as the coronavirus lockdown orders that currently affect a large portion of bars across the state.

“[A]s a staunch supporter of the 2nd amendment, I am pleased that both bills would allow more opportunity for people to carry because of more clearly defined establishments,” said Patterson in a press release about the bills.

In addition to constitutional carry, Hall also recently filed SB 514 to eliminate schools from the list of gun-free zones in Texas code.

A bill from Rep. Ben Leman (R-Anderson), HB 918, would allow 18-21 year-olds who are protected under court orders to apply for an LTC.

Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) filed HB 1094 which would take Leman’s proposal one step further and allow that group of individuals to carry without a permit.

State Protection Against Federal Policies

With a call from Governor Greg Abbott for Texas to become a “Second Amendment sanctuary state,” other bills that pit the Lone Star State against future regulations of the federal government have also been put in the spotlight.

Abbott helped draft the Texas Firearm Protection Act as the Texas attorney general during the Obama administration, and though that legislation was not brought to the floor of the Senate then, it has been introduced again as detailed here.

Two similar versions with the title have been filed: HB 112 by Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), with a companion bill in the Senate filed by Hall, and HB 919 by Leman, with a companion filed by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham).

Both pieces of legislation would prohibit law enforcement from enforcing federal gun regulations enacted after September 1, 2021 — when the act would go into effect — if they do not exist under state law.

Though not under the same title, Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) has filed a similar bill, HB 635, which would apply to both past and future federal gun regulations.

Targeting a more specific policy, Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) filed HB 336, titled the “Anti-Red Flag Act.”

Cain’s bill would prohibit governing entities throughout the state from enforcing extreme risk protective orders that are not otherwise authorized by state law.

In keeping with the tradition of Texas pride, two bills have also been filed that would exempt firearms and suppressors that are made and sold in the Lone Star State from federal regulation.

Krause’s HB 915 would apply to most guns, with the exception of automatic firearms and some other less common weapons, while Oliverson’s HB 957 would apply to firearm suppressors.

A list of all gun-related legislation as identified by the Texas Legislature Online can be found here.

Update: This article was updated to include reference to the bills filed by Sen. Springer on February 1.

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Daniel Friend

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.