WEEK IN REVIEW
PERMITLESS CARRY PASSES SENATE
(AUSTIN) — The Senate on Wednesday approved a measure that would remove the state licensure requirement for Texans who are legally permitted to possess and carry a sidearm. Current law requires a person who wishes to carry a handgun in public, either concealed or openly, to pay a fee, pass a background check, take a safety course and pass a proficiency exam. All of that stands in between citizens and their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, said bill sponsor and Georgetown Senator Charles Schwertner. "HB 1927 would recognize the United States Constitution as our permit to carry and allow all law-abiding adults, aged 21 years or older, to carry a handgun for the protection of themselves or their families, in public places, in a holster, without the requirement of a state-issued license," he said.
Texas would join 20 other states that don't require handgun licenses. Schwertner said the bill doesn't address possession laws and that it would still remain illegal for people who aren't allowed to carry under federal and state laws. The bill was amended to enhance penalties for convicted felons and domestic violence offenders who are caught unlawfully carrying. "Felons shouldn't carry in Texas after this law is passed," warned Schwertner.
Opponents of the bill raised concerns that safeguards in the licensure process, designed to weed out those who are not legally permitted to carry, would let guns fall into dangerous hands. Senator Sarah Eckhardt of Austin noted that nearly a thousand license-to-carry applications were denied in 2020 due to previous criminal history. "We won't have that filter anymore without the license," she said. Schwertner argued that, in additional to fully restoring a constitutional right that was restricted beginning in 1871 when Texas outlawed carrying sidearms, the bill would serve to improve public safety. “To me, this bill is about two things: the advancement of self-defense, and a belief in - and trust of - law-abiding citizens to avail themselves of their Second Amendment right to self-defend by carrying a sidearm,” he said. “I think this is an advancement that is going to improve safety both for the individual and society at large.”
The bill must now head back to the House for the consideration of Senate amendments. Representatives can choose to concur with Senate changes or request the appointment of a conference committee to resolve the differences. House author and Tyler Representative Matt Schaefer tweeted late Wednesday that he was "very concerned" regarding some of the Senate changes. Should both chambers agree on a final bill, Governor Greg Abbott has said he would sign a permitless carry bill this session.
Also this week, state Comptroller Glenn Hegar revised his January budget estimate for the current biennium upwards by almost $1.7 billion. Better-than-expected sales tax collections, including a record-breaking April, have turned Hegar's prediction of a $900 million shortfall at the end of fiscal year 2021 into a $750 million surplus, giving lawmakers more room to true up actual expenditures with what they budgeted for in 2019. They'll also have $3.2 billion more to work with as they finish crafting the budget for the 2022-2023 biennium.
Hegar credited the state's vaccination effort, which has substantially driven down COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, with the revitalization of the state economy. The $1.9 trillion federal aid package passed by Congress in March is also driving increased consumer spending, he said. "Whether you agree or disagree with the stimulus package, the fact is it's probably dragging future GDP forward as people spend those dollars today," said Hegar.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m.