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Bill To Allow ‘Constitutional Carry’ Of Firearms Gains Momentum In Texas House

An ammo magazine on a large gun is painted to look like the Texas flag. The gun is in a holster, worn by a person in dark blue clothes.
Eric Gay/AP
/
AP
An ammo magazine is made to look like the Texas flag as gun rights advocates gather outside the Texas Capitol where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a round table discussion in 2019.

The Texas House of Representatives is set to debate a so-called “constitutional carry” bill that would allow Texans to carry guns in public without a license.

State lawmakers recently voted House Bill 1927 out of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, and the full House is set to consider it on Thursday.

At a news conference at a Grapevine gun range Tuesday, Texas GOP chair Allen West said the rights granted by the Second Amendment are just as absolute as those in the First Amendment.

"How about a permit or ‘mother-may-I’ for freedom of speech, or freedom of expression, or freedom to assemble?" he asked.

Raul Camacho, chief firearm instructor at Safety Measures, disagreed with that thinking.

"Just like any other amendment that we have or any constitutional right that we have there's rules in place," he told Houston Public Media. "The logic that constitutional carry or any of the Bill of Rights that we have is absolute is incorrect."

Camacho is part of a group of license-to-carry instructors that voiced their opposition to constitutional carry bills on the steps of the Texas Capitol Tuesday. They were joined by members of law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Camacho and 51 other firearm instructors also sent a letter to members of the House urging them not to vote for any unlicensed carry bill.

“There is a reason why we have mandatory hunter’s safety courses and rules at shooting ranges – it should be no different in public,” the letter reads.

The letter also says many instructors would be put out of business if the bill is passed.

Critics of H.B. 1927 are concerned that under the law anyone who is currently disqualified from obtaining a handgun license would be able to carry guns, including those convicted of violent offenses.

"We're talking about people who have records with domestic violence, we have people that have a record for assault, we have people with mental illness," Camacho said. "Do you really want all these people out here in public carrying guns?"

Currently, people can obtain a license to carry a handgun in Texas if they take a four-hour course by a licensed instructor to learn about the law, handgun use and safety and conflict resolution. They also need to demonstrate basic shooting ability by firing at a target.

In 2017, Texas reduced the fee for a license to carry to $40, down from $140.

Permitless carry has long been on the wish list for some gun owners, but so far attempts to make Texas a constitutional carry state have failed in the Legislature.

This year, proponents like their chances to get a bill passed, as more influential Republicans support the idea – including West and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

If the bill becomes law, Texas will join at least 19 other states with constitutional carry laws.

But Camacho said letting people carry guns without training threatens public safety.

"I would say 99% of the people out there don't have the skillset to respond properly if there's an active shooter situation in the vicinity," he said. "People who go to the range, all they're shooting, it's just a paper target. That does not qualify you (to be) ready to take on a bad guy."