AUSTIN, TX - Guns are expected to be a hot topic as state lawmakers head into the home stretch of the 2017 legislative session.
Monday marked the start of the final four weeks and there are more than a dozen gun-related bills that have a decent shot at going to vote on the House and Senate floors.
One of the most talked about proposals filed this session, House Bill 1911 would allow Texans to carry a handgun without a permit.
Known as permitless carry or constitutional carry, HB 1911 would make licenses for both open and concealed carry optional, along with the safety training that’s currently required.
State Representative James White, R-Hillister, filed the proposal based on the idea that licensing and training requirements should not get in the way of a person’s Second Amendment rights.
“Nobody has the right to pull the trigger and kill my child,” said Calandrian Kemp. Her son was shot and killed in Houston in September of 2013. George Kemp Jr. was gunned down following a dispute, he was 20 years old.
“The first thing in my head was where in the hell did the gun come from? Where did it come from? From some teens? What were they doing with a gun?” Kemp asked, still in disbelief.
Known as permit-less carry, HB 1911 would make licenses for both open and concealed carry optional, along with the safety training that’s currently required.
“I just say this is something Texans should have,” said Rep. White, the author of the bill.
While gun control advocates believe the proposal is “dangerous,” permitless carry supporters argue an armed society is a safer society.
When asked if his bill would make Texas safer, White said, “I don’t think that’s an assessment that I can make, I just look at it as a constitutional right.”
White added, “Obviously, there is a very stringent federal background check that every person has to meet when they purchase a firearm.”
Under HB 1911, gun owners would still have to meet the same restrictions that are required to obtain a license to carry: be at least 21 and have no felony convictions.
An earlier version of the bill would have allowed anyone 18 or older carry a firearm without a permit in Texas.
White said he described his proposal as “a clean-up bill that puts everything and everybody on the same level playing field—handguns, pistol revolvers, along with long arms.”
Rifles, also known as long arms, can be carried in Texas without a permit and with no training required.
Several law enforcement agencies and organizations testified against the bill.
“It will make their jobs harder and more dangerous because they will not be able to tell who should have a gun and who shouldn’t have a gun, they will have no way to know,” explained State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin.
Public safety officials are set to meet at the Capitol Tuesday to speak out against the bill.
White said those same police groups made similar arguments against licensed concealed carry and campus carry before those were passed into law.
“And we have not seen those situations played out,” White said, “Time and time and time again the Texas
Police Chiefs Association has been wrong and they are wrong about House Bill 1911.”
The bill was passed out of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety in a 6-2 party line vote.
Now in the hands of the Calendar Committee, awaiting scheduling to go to the House floor for debate and final vote, HB 1911 is the first bill of its kind of advance this far in the legislative process.
The Texas House is set to debate two other gun-related bills Tuesday. House Bill 300 would greatly reduce the cost for gun licenses. Also filed by Rep. Ken King, R-Weatherford, House Bill 435 would allow first responders, including volunteers, to carry handguns on the job if properly licensed.
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