AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas issued more than one million licenses to carry firearms over the last decade, state police told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Chief Wayne Mueller, of the agency’s regulatory services division, testified that approximately 400,000 Texans had licenses to carry in 2010, and 2019 finished with 1.4 million participants.
“[Which] equates to about 213% increase,” Mueller said, adding that the yearly average increase was approximately 14%.
In a meeting of the Senate’s State Affairs committee, Mueller said the number of licenses issued increased each year over the decade. The highest was in 2016, at 23%. At the start of that year, it became legal for Texans over 21 years old to openly carry firearms. Campus carry took effect that September.
“The item that had the most single impact on the program overall in the last decade was the move to open carry in 2016,” Mueller said.
The lowest increase came from 2018-19, a 6% increase.
Mueller noted another spike in the data came after lawmakers reduced the fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 in 2017.
The license to carry program (formerly concealed handgun license program) turns 25 in 2020. It was enacted in 1995.
Mueller testified that after major mass-shootings in the country over the last five years, Texans largely do not apply for licenses to carry in the immediate aftermath. Criminal activity among license-holders has not increased over the decade, Mueller added.
“With the implementation of open carry, with the implementation of Campus Carry, the data does not indicate that there has been any increase in criminal activity over the course of a decade on the part of those that are licensees within the program,” he said.
A copy of the the data Mueller provided lawmakers was requested following his testimony to lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, but as of this writing, had not been released to the media by the department.
Second Amendment advocates called on lawmakers to approve Constitutional carry, also known as permitless carry. Dozens of witnesses argued it was the next step legislators should take to protect the rights of law-abiding gun-owners.
“I was looking for my license to be here to talk to y’all today in my wallet this morning, I couldn’t find it,” John Bolgiano, of Llano, said. “Couldn’t find my license to read the newspaper or go to church on Sunday.”
“The only license for a constitutionally enumerated right I could find was my Texas License to Carry,” he added.
“It’s long past time to pass constitutional carry,” Bolgiano said.
Others called for the elimination of gun-free zones.
“These zones just announce that we can’t or are unwilling to defend ourselves,” Cody Ryan, an electrician at a chemical plant, who is also a member of the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, said. Ryan is also a license to carry instructor.
Supporters of legislation to tighten gun laws told lawmakers they looked forward to seeing the implementation of gun safety education programs, which was approved last session.
“We were very supportive of the safe storage campaign, that DPS had in the budget, and we look forward to working on that, for it to be part of the base budget next time,” said Gyl Switzer, director of Texas Gun Sense.