87th LegislatureGunsConstitutional Carry Gets Marathon Hearing in Texas House Committee

The Homeland Security Committee heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses on several constitutional carry bills late into the night, finally gaveling out at 5:39 a.m. on Friday morning.
March 26, 2021
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Late into the hours of the day and the early hours of the next morning — the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee considered several gun bills, including some that would establish constitutional carry in the Lone Star State.

Four bills that would allow permitless carry of handguns at varying degrees were heard by the committee, though the version with the highest chance of passing is House Bill (HB) 1911, aptly sharing a number with the once standard-issue U.S. military sidearm, the Colt 1911.

HB 1911 was authored by Rep. James White (R-Hillister), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, and has 32 other members signed onto it — including four from the committee: Reps. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant), Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), and Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington).

If passed, the legislation would open permitless carry to those over 21 — or over 18 if in the military — who are also eligible for an LTC.

In laying out the legislation around five o’clock on Friday morning, White said that HB 1911 was a copy of his bill of the same number that passed through the committee four years ago in 2017.

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He noted that he had what he thought was “an improved draft” of the bill, but opted to lay out the original version instead.

“We don’t have to belabor this very much,” said White as he introduced HB 1911 as the last bill in a marathon hearing.

“I don’t know what that means as far as stuff getting off the floor, but everybody wants their rights and everybody wants the government to respect them, regardless of the issue.”

The other constitutional carry bills that the committee heard were HB 1238 from Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), HB 2900 from Hefner, and HB 1927 from Schaefer.

As with current law, all four of the proposals would continue to prohibit felons and people convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from carrying a firearm.

Out of the four bills, HB 1238 and HB 2900 would apply to the most number of people, with both permitting anyone over the age of 18 who can legally possess a firearm to carry in the same places that License to Carry (LTC) holders are currently permitted to carry.

“HB 1238 will help solidify Texas position as pro-gun state by making a license to carry optional when carrying in Texas and ties the ability to carry your firearm to the ability to legally possess a firearm but will keep the License to Carry program in place in order to maintain our current reciprocity with other states,” said Biedermann in his introduction of the bill.

He added, “Anything required for law-abiding citizens to carry and bear arms beyond the text of the Second Amendment is a usurpation of the people’s sovereign right to self-defense.”

Notably, White had joined Biedermann as a joint author for HB 1238.

Hefner made similar comments in introducing his bill.

“Federal law does not prohibit the possession of firearms by anyone 18 or older,” said Hefner. “[HB 2900], put simply, conforms to existing federal code in that it allows those same individuals to carry without a permit.”

HB 1927 would apply to anyone over the age of 21 who can legally possess a firearm to carry in most places without needing to obtain an LTC, though a license is still required to carry under certain circumstances.

Schaefer said that if he was “a committee of one,” HB 1927 would look much different but that he wrote it with the challenges of passing it through the full, 150-member House in mind.

“That being said, it also has a couple wrinkles in it that maybe some of the other bills don’t,” said Schaefer.

One such “wrinkle” that he acknowledged in his own bill was that “gun free zones by and large” stay in place in it.

Schaefer had similarly criticized the 2017 version of HB 1911 as “too restrictive,” but still supported the bill to see progress on the issue.

But in the 85th Legislature, constitutional carry didn’t make much more progress.

After passing out of the Homeland Security committee, the bill was sent to Calendars Committee where it subsequently died.

Whether HB 1911 or any of the other permitless carry bills in the current 87th Legislature will meet the same fate remains to be seen.

But a key difference between four years ago and now is the speaker of the House, a position with powerful control over what bills appear before the entire chamber.

In 2017, then-Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who had been censured by his own party’s state executive committee, was speaker.

Now Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) holds that position, and in 2017, Phelan had been one of the joint authors of HB 1911.

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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.