Constitutional Carry in Texas is being spun out like an episodic drama. Depending on your news source, you may be hearing that it’s in a victorious ship sailing through calm seas. Or that it’s dead in the water. Neither report is accurate, although there’s a grain of truth in each. But before we speculate on the season finale, let’s do a quick review of the episodes that have already aired. Previously on Texas Gun Law Drama . . .
Episode 1: HB 375 is filed – The Constitutional Carry Act of 2017. It repeals the ban on carrying handguns without a government permission slip. Effect: if you legally possess it, you may carry it. The episode ends with cheers from Lady Liberty herself. I’m also pretty sure I heard the Alamo’s stone walls crying out in joy.
Episode 2: HB 1911 is filed – It’s touted as “Permitless Carry.” It maintains the ban on carrying handguns without a License to Carry, but adds an exception: people who meet the stringent requirements to apply for a license may carry without a permit. The episode ends with a question mark: does this mean guilty until proven innocent?
Episode 3: Pressure builds! – Supporters of HB 375 point out the flaws in HB 1911. Legislators write a new version of HB 1911 that drops many of the reviled requirements, such as prohibiting Texans charged with (but not convicted of) a misdemeanor from carrying without a permit.
Episode 4: HB 375 and HB 1911 (the latest version) receive a committee hearing on the same day – Activists begin arriving at seven in the morning. Many stay until the hearing is over, some 13 hours later. Over 75k petitions in favor of HB 375 are wheeled into the hearing room. Some 165 witnesses drive to the Capitol to register in favor of HB 375 (compared to half that many for HB 1911). With this hearing, Constitutional Carry has come farther than ever before in Texas.
Episode 5: Chairman King tells the two bill authors to meet together and write a combined bill that he promises to pass out of Committee – They successfully write a bill that many supporters of HB 375 would have supported. It would allow handgun carry without a license for those who are over 21, not felons, not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a handgun, and not a member of a criminal street gang.
Episode 6: Chairman King decides NOT to pass that bill – He takes the original version of HB 1911 – with all those stringent requirements – and passes it out of Committee, intentionally leaving HB 375 to languish. King’s office is overwhelmed with calls from HB 375 supporters. King punts blame over to Attorney General Ken Paxton, who quickly hits the ball right back over to King, stating that he would have supported HB 375 if it would please the King to pass it. Apparently, it does not. King’s office turns a deaf ear to HB 375 supporters.
How will this end?
There are two possibilities for the next exciting episode:
1. Chairman King passes HB 375 out of committee TODAY
2. The House responds to pressure and replaces HB 1911 with the language favored by supporters of HB 375
There’s little doubt the Texas House of Representatives will pass some kind of Constitutional Carry bill. And then it’s off to the Senate for more drama: reconciliation with the House Bill.
One way or another, I’m confident Texas will pass Constitutional Carry. The question is, when? How many seasons of political maneuvering will it take? Will The Lone Star State pass a flimsy, ill-structured bill this session and spend 20 years fixing it, as they have with the convoluted LTC law? Or will they get Constitutional Carry right the first time?
If you want to avoid a disappointing season finale, I won’t tell you what to do. But I will tell you that Chairman King’s office number is (512) 463-0738, and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m sure you can take it from there.