Under current regulations, most people who want to carry a gun on the public property must obtain written permission from the agency.
Exceptions are made for law enforcement and individuals using their weapons for hunting, fishing, or at a shooting range.
Even license to carry (LTC) holders in Texas must meet the exemptions above in order to carry a weapon on the federally managed lands without written permission.
If the proposed rule change goes into effect, written consent to carry would no longer be required and individuals would only need to be compliant with state laws.
The deregulation would apply to a number of USACE recreational locations throughout the state.
Over the past several years, there has been an increased push for the USACE to make this policy change, both through Congress and federal courts.
Early last year, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) introduced legislation that would accomplish the same goal as the rule change.
It was cosponsored by 25 other Republicans, including five from Texas: Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), Randy Weber (R-TX-14), Pete Olson (R-TX-22), Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), and Brian Babin (R-TX-36).
“Our Second Amendment rights should not be limited to certain areas that bureaucrats dictate,” Gohmert told The Washington Examiner. “Law-abiding gun owners should be able to carry when they are camping, hunting, and fishing on the 11.7 million acres of property owned and managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”
The legislation has made little progress, though.
In 2014, a federal lawsuit was filed against the USACE on the issue in Idaho and a district judge ruled against the USACE’s policy.
The government agency appealed the decision but filed an emergency motion right before the hearing in 2017 declaring that they were reevaluating their policy.
In December of last year, the USACE decided against reinstating the appeal.
In April, they posted the proposed rule change, stating, “The Corps believes the proposed revision will benefit the public by eliminating the burden to apply for written permission from the Corps as well as by aligning the requirements for possessing a weapon on Corps projects lands with the requirements applicable to the areas surrounding a project.”
The USACE will continue fielding public comments on the proposed rule change until June 12.
Over 3,000 comments have already been submitted, with several mentioning Texas.
Some have been critical, such as one resident of Canyon Lake who said they weren’t afraid of criminals but rather “hotheads with a concealed carry license or those who open carry,” and expressed concern that the state would experience an “immediate rise in gun-related crime” if the rule change is approved.
However, many more have been supportive of the proposal to delegate authority to the states.
“The best option in my opinion is to simply issue guidance that each location should match the firearm requirements of its local (likely county-level) jurisdiction regarding the carrying of firearms in a public place,” wrote one commentator.
They noted that “Texas License-to-carry holders have repeatedly proven to be some of the absolute safest and most law abiding groups of people throughout the United States,” linking to a list of reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety that show LTC holders make up a minuscule portion of the overall conviction rates in the state.
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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.