Here’s a look at the gun-related legislation that has made its way to the governor’s desk.
The gun bill to receive the most attention this session has been House Bill (HB) 1927, titled the “Firearm Carry Act of 2021” but commonly referred to as “constitutional carry.”
While the open carry of long guns without a permit has been allowed under Texas law, residents have needed to obtain a License to Carry (LTC) in order to carry a handgun in public.
After HB 1927 is signed by Gov. Greg Abbott and goes into effect in September, most Texans over the age of 21 who can legally possess a handgun will now be able to carry that weapon in public without an LTC.
But constitutional carry is far from the only gun bill to be approved this legislative session, even as it relates to carrying a firearm.
Under current law, individuals with or without an LTC are legally allowed to carry a handgun with them in their vehicles but it can only be in plain view if it is holstered to an LTC holder.
HB 1407 broadens the penal code to allow a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft to allow a holstered handgun to be kept in plain view regardless of whether or not it is holstered on the individual.
Alongside the constitutional carry bill, the change will apply to both LTC holders and anyone over the age of 21 who can legally possess a handgun.
While constitutional carry is set to go into effect later this year, the LTC program is not going away and will be available for any eligible Texan who wishes to obtain a permit.
LTC permits are recognized by other states that do not yet have a form of constitutional carry in place and can expedite future purchases of firearms since they prove an individual has already cleared a federal background check.
A few bills were approved by lawmakers that will expand the LTC program and clarify some parts of state code.
HB 2675 requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to expedite LTC applications for individuals who are “at increased risk of becoming a victim of violence” and are protected under a court order.
Similarly, HB 918 expands the LTC program to allow applications from individuals who are 18 years or older, are under active protective court orders, and are otherwise eligible for the carry permit.
The Texas legislature also approved House Bill (HB) 2112 and Senate Bill (SB) 550, which removes the specific language in state code that handguns must be worn in a “shoulder or belt” holster, allowing individuals to utilize any type of holster.
HB 1069 creates a program by which first responders in less populous counties are permitted to carry a handgun while performing their responsibilities.
School marshals also have an expanded ability to carry weapons on the job instead of stowing them thanks to SB 741 and HB 781.
Framed as “Second Amendment Protections for Travelers” when listed among Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top priorities for the session, SB 20 will require hotels to allow guests to store their firearms in their rooms.
Similarly placing Second Amendment rights over private property rights, HB 4346 would prohibit restrictions of carrying firearms or alcohol on easement holders.
While other legislation expanded the areas where individuals could carry handguns, HB 1920 expands a restricted location by amending the definition in state code of the “secured area” of an airport.
“[C]urrent state law does not prevent an airline employee from possessing a weapon in the airport operations area,” reads the statement of intent from the bill’s author, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake).
“This gap creates jurisdictional challenges for state airport law enforcement responding to threats. The bill would close this gap in the law by expanding the definition of an airport’s secured area to include the airport operations area.”
Limits on Government Regulation
A number of bills passed by the legislature took aim at current or potential ways firearms could be regulated in Texas.
With HB 2622, the state is declaring itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”
The bill would prohibit state and local government entities from enforcing certain types of potential federal firearm regulations that are not included in state code, such as background checks on private transfers or gun confiscation programs.
HB 957 would exempt Texas-made suppressors from federal regulations surrounding noise-reducing accessories.
One of the few changes made to the Texas Disaster Act, the underpinning part of state code that was used by Abbott to address the pandemic, was HB 1500, which removes the governor’s ability in state code to regulate firearms during a disaster declaration.
Near the start of the pandemic last year, some localities attempted to force the closure of gun stores as “non-essential” businesses, but those measures received pushback from statewide elected officials when Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion that deemed gun stores as “essential.”
Since firearms are still prohibited in certain government buildings, such as courthouses, HB 29 was approved by the legislature to allow state agencies and political subdivisions to create lockers for visitors to temporarily store their firearms.
Prior law required foster parents to store firearms and ammunition in separate locked locations unless the firearm had the additional safeguard of a trigger locking device.
HB 1387, already signed by the governor and effective September 1, amends the law to allow foster parents to store firearms and ammunition in the same locked location.
Background Check Enforcement
One of the few bills supported by gun control advocates to make it to the governor’s desk was SB 162, a “lie and try” bill that creates a state jail felony for knowingly lying on a federal firearm background check.
Firearm Businesses and Organizations
Another of Patrick’s priority bills, SB 19 prohibits state agencies and political subdivisions from contracting with any business that discriminates against firearm businesses or organizations.
The bill analysis from Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) cites a policy that began under the Obama administration that discouraged banks and other financial institutions from conducting business with organizations in the firearm industry.
“Although the program was officially ended in 2017, bank executives and financial institution leaders have reportedly continued the program’s discriminatory banking practices,” states the analysis. “[SB 19] seeks to ensure that companies contracting with a state agency or political subdivision do not have an internal practice, policy, guidance, or directive that discriminates against a firearm entity or firearm trade association.”
Receiving near-unanimous support in both chambers, SB 313 exempts firearm safety equipment such as gun safes and trigger locks from state sales tax.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.