According to State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), the biggest opponents his recently announced constitutional carry bill will face are Republican leadership and the splintering interests of supporters.
Constitutional carry, a GOP platform priority in Texas, would allow all owners of legally purchased firearms to carry them without permits.
“The only things I see are a speaker that again wants to put a chairman in place in order to kill the legislation, or the gun owner and Second Amendment groups don’t get together and work on legislation,” Biedermann told The Texan when asked what obstacles he sees in the path of his bill.
“If we don’t get together and work together on legislation, or everybody wants to get their own legislation or their ego is too big to allow someone else’s legislation to get through, that’s the biggest problem… Republican leadership, they’re the ones that for some reason have not wanted to prioritize constitutional carry, which they should.”
Last session’s constitutional carry bill, House Bill 357, died in the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee chaired by Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) in the wake of confrontations between activist Chris McNutt and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who said the bill “would allow a criminal the ability to carry a gun.”
Neither Bonnen nor Nevarez will seek reelection in 2020.
Hopeful that concerns of increased civil unrest amid riots and protests will bolster the popularity of constitutional carry, Biedermann also anticipates some left-wing support for the bill.
“When I look at my store, at the first time purchasers of firearms, they are certainly not all right-wingers,” he said. “People are seeing the need for protecting themselves.”
Greg Abbott has shown mild support for such bills in the past, promising shortly after his election to sign a constitutional carry bill if it crossed his desk and signing a bill into law last session that allows permitless carry during states of disaster.
However, after mass shootings in 2018, Abbott briefly teased and then abandoned red-flag laws that would heighten gun restrictions.
Noting that fifteen other states allow constitutional carry, Biedermann believes the timing is right this session.
“I think we have a better chance this year than we have had because of the climate of what’s going on in our country,” he said. “With respect to firearm sales as well as the movement to defund the police and the rioting in the streets, people are concerned about law enforcement not being able to protect them when necessary.”
Republicans enjoyed a more solid majority in the 85th session with 95 members against the Democrats’ 55 before losing twelve seats in the 2018 election.
Although the 83-67 Republican majority still passed a number of bills in the 86th session to the praise of some conservative groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), other major platform priorities, like constitutional carry, were left behind.
The 87th Legislature may see more Democratic opposition to the bill. Margins of victory for Republicans throughout the Texas House shrank significantly from 2016 to 2018. The major gains Democrats enjoyed in 2018 have led pollsters to predict another surge of blue victories in 2020, but those numbers may shrink without the aid of Beto O’Rourke’s immensely popular Senate campaign. Texas Election Source has called seven Republican-held seats competitive, but no Democratic seats were listed as leaning Republican.
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