As of September 1, Texans will be allowed to carry handguns throughout the state without having a license or training.
On June 16, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 1927. HB 1927 is a permitless carry law that allows adults 21 and older to carry handguns in Texas as long as they are not legally barred from doing so. An elaborate signing ceremony was held at the Alamo, despite a mass shooting just the weekend before in nearby Austin that left 13 wounded and one dead.
Before the new law, handgun owners needed a license to carry, whether openly or concealed. Applicants had to be fingerprinted, trained and tested via a written exam and shooting test. Now Texans can bypass all of those requirements. Republican proponents of the bill say it is long overdue, referring to it as a “constitutional carry.” They argued that at least 20 other states have similar allowances and that there must be no barrier to Second Amendment rights, despite the unprecedented rise of gun violence in Texas and around the country.
In an attempt to speed the bill’s approval, Senate Republicans added several amendments designed to pacify law enforcement opponents worried about officer safety. One of the agreed changes was to enhance criminal penalties for felons and family violence offenders caught carrying a handgun.
The bill also permits people previously convicted of unlawful carry to have that conviction expunged and provides a defense for people who bring their gun “on accident” to somewhere it is prohibited.
Recent polls showed that most Texans oppose the permitless carry change, and Democrats, who say Republicans gave in to pressure from organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA), worry it will make it easier for mass shooters to purchase weapons.
“This permitless carry bill will cause more violence and loss,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso). “Despite overwhelming support for common-sense gun violence prevention legislation like universal background checks, Texas Republicans, led by a cowardly governor, are more interested in groveling for the gun lobby’s attention than they are in preventing gun violence and honoring victims and survivors in El Paso and across Texas.”
Opponents conceded that the new bill is now law but will continue to fight for increased safety and education measures around it.
In August 2019, back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso took the lives of 30 people. At first, it seemed the shootings would be enough to prompt gun control reforms in the Lone Star State, as the governor said he was open to new restrictions. But during this year’s legislative session in February, he was back to supporting gun owners and made no mention of those shootings.
Other Bills Signed Along With HB1927
Several other firearm-related bills were signed into law by the governor on June 16. These bills are as follows:
- Government contracts may not be formed with anyone who discriminates against the firearm industry
- Hotels must refrain from putting restrictive gun policies in place
- Handgun owners will have more freedom in their choice of holster
- Firearms suppressors are no longer prohibited in the Texas Penal Code
- Firearm and ammunition manufacturers and sellers are considered essential businesses
- State and local governments may not enforce new federal gun laws
How Should Gun Owners Interpret the New Texas Law?
Just because handgun owners no longer need a license to carry, it doesn’t mean that anyone can go anywhere they want with a gun. There are important restrictions that carriers must note.
The bill requires that the state offer a free online safety course and allow safety instructors to continue accepting students.
It also only applies to those 21 and older (18 for military service members) who are not legally barred from owning a gun. Anyone who has a chemical dependence issue or is not federally permitted to purchase a gun cannot carry one. Whether or not to allow open carry or concealed carry on private property is at the discretion of its owners, and posted signs in public must be obeyed. Finally, your handgun must be holstered at all times and never in your hand. However, there are no holster mandates for concealed carry.
Handguns are still restricted at many public locations, including but not limited to:
- Any place where a school or professional event is being held
- A correctional facility
- A courthouse
- An amusement park
- A bar
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