Texas Legislative Roundup: Incremental Steps Forward, no Gun Rights Setbacks

texas gun law legislative session

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By LKB

Fans of the Second Amendment know that the Texas Legislature is often a maddeningly frustrating place. Despite having had solid GOP majorities in both houses for years, a strong pro-gun culture across the state, and even an experienced pro-2A lobbying force (in the form of the Texas State Rifle Association and GOA), pro-gun Texas laws often seem to take forever to be enacted.

For example, Texas was surprisingly late to the “shall-issue” party, and open carry and campus carry laws are only recent additions.

Much of the “problem” lies in the structure of Texas government. For those of you not familiar with the particular practices of the government of the Lone Star State, the Texas Legislature sits for only a single 140-day regular session every two years (unless the Governor calls a special session to address specific matters).

This and similar aspects of Texas’ post-Reconstruction constitution make it purposefully hard for the Legislature to pass anything (which on balance is probably a good thing).

Compounding the problem is a truly spineless state GOP leadership, which for years has allowed the Speaker of the Texas House (arguably the most powerful position in the state) to effectively be selected by Democrats rather than by a majority of the GOP House caucus. That’s resulted in a series of RINO Speakers whose Second Amendment support has been tepid at best.

lone star gun rights lawsuit

Texas Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature is now history. So, how did Texas People of the Gun fare?

First, the disappointing news. As previously reported, the Speaker of the Texas House is a declared opponent of Constitutional Carry, and used an incident involving a representative for Texas Gun Rights as the excuse to block consideration of such legislation.

Reasonable minds can debate whether TGR’s actions were wise/unwise /counterproductive, and whether the Speaker’s preexisting hostility had doomed the legislation from the start. But the bottom line is that Texas won’t be joining the trend toward permitless carry for at least the next two years.

Second is the “no news is good news” department. After the Santa Fe High School shooting, reports surfaced that a Texas “red flag” law might get serious consideration.  Fortunately, after an outcry by numerous pro-2A organizations, both Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick pronounced any such legislation dead on arrival, and thus it went nowhere.

Indeed, with only one exception, none of the dozens of bills in the 86th Session that were opposed by the pro-2A community got anywhere close to passing. The sole exception was an appropriation of $1 million for an ad campaign to promote safe storage of firearms — and Gov. Abbott may yet use his line-item veto to strike this.

As such, the hopes of anti-2A forces that, as they were able to do in Florida, they might parlay a tragedy into some knee-jerk restrictions on gun rights were soundly crushed.

Third, despite the inherent inertia of the Texas legislative process, the Legislature did manage to pass a pretty good number number of pro-gun measures.  Most of these fall into the category of shoring up existing Texas gun laws and preventing various state and private actors from circumventing them. (While some have been signed into law, some are now on the Governor’s desk, but there’s no indication that Gov. Abbott intends to veto any of them.)

texas governor greg abbott

(Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

HB 302 largely prohibits most residential landlords from prohibiting the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, and storage of firearms.  In other words, the new law precludes the imposition of private gun control by clauses in a residential lease. For example, if your apartment complex is owned by a California or New York landlord who wants to virtue signal by prohibiting the legal possession or carrying of firearms on his Texas property, your landlord is now out of luck.

Similarly, SB 741 curtails the ability of homeowners’ associations to restrict firearms activities through restrictive covenants or neighborhood association rules.  Because zoning is not prevalent in many parts of Texas, restrictive covenants (enforced by private homeowners associations) are widely used as the mechanisms to protect residential neighborhoods from commercial or other disconsonant development or activities.

While homeowners associations can be an effective way to preserve the character of a residential neighborhood, they also can become nanny-like organizations that prohibit their residents from all sorts of otherwise legal conduct. (Indeed, I’ve recently seen my own HOA consider imposing firearms restrictions that the proponents would never have been able to get enacted as public laws.)

Fortunately, SB 741 nips this emerging tactic in the bud: if it is otherwise legal for you to possess, store, carry, or even discharge a firearm, you can tell your HOA to pound sand if they try and stop or penalize you.

HB 3231 generally prohibits municipalities from imposing their own gun control or weapons laws, or to impose special restrictions on gun- or weapon-related businesses.  (Sorry Austin liberals, but that dream you had of using your control of local government to imitate Pittsburgh and get around those icky Texas gun laws just went up in smoke.)

HB 1791 prohibits state agencies or other political subdivisions from prohibiting lawful carry on their premises (e.g., a state office can’t post 30.06 or 30.07 notices).  (This does not, however, affect existing bans of weapons from courthouses, detention facilities, or other prohibited places.)

HB 1143 closed a potential loophole/ambiguity relating to storing a firearm in a vehicle parked on school grounds. Carrying on school property is still generally verboten, but a previous change in the law allowed a person to store his weapon in a locked vehicle parked on school property (so long as the weapon was not in plain sight).

The loophole was that the school district might be able to dictate how you had to store your not-in-plain-sight weapon (which could easily be defined in such a restrictive fashion as to effectively negate the right, and would largely have affected school employees). No more: school districts “may not regulate the manner in which the handgun, firearm, or ammunition is stored in the vehicle.”

HB 2137  allows most retired state and federal law enforcement officers to obtain a Texas License to Carry without having to complete the usual classroom training and range proficiency certification.

HB 2363  prohibits the state from forbidding the otherwise lawful possession or storage of firearms in certain foster homes (but allows the Commission to set certain minimum standards for safe storage of firearms in such homes)

SB 772  addresses the decision of a property owner not to post a notice under TPC 30.06 (concealed carry prohibited) or 30.07 (open carry prohibited). Under the new law, evidence that the owner did not post either such notice is inadmissible, and cannot form the basis for any claim of cause of action.

E.g., negligent discharge by a customer in a store hits a bystander; bystander sues store owner, claiming store owner did not post 30.06 / 30.07 signs and arguing that doing so might have prevented bystander’s injury. Under the new law, no claim and the evidence that store owner did not post 30.06/30.07 notices is inadmissible.

SB 535  removes the blanket prohibition from carrying in churches or other houses of worship. This was largely a technical change to the law, as an earlier change of the law already gutted the blanket prohibition by requiring a church, etc., to post a 30.06/30.07 notice if they wanted to prohibit carrying, and they still can do so if they wish.

SB 371 makes it legal to hunt feral hogs on private land (with the landowner’s permission) without a hunting license.

SB 506  was probably the biggest fight of the session on a gun-related bill, and passed the Senate at the last minute by a one-vote margin. Under this bill, when there has been a disaster declaration and an evacuation order, a person evacuating who is otherwise allowed to possess a handgun can carry without a permit for the week after the evacuation order.

Basis for the law was not to put gun owners in the position of having to decide whether to leave their guns behind (where they would be subject to theft/looting) or take them with them and risk arrest for illegal carrying.

So overall, no bad bills passed, and a good number of incremental improvements that make it harder for state and private actors to impose greater restrictions on firearms possession and carrying than state law authorizes. Thank you, Texas Legislature, TSRA and GOA.

Now if the Texas GOP will just follow its own state party platform (Planks 218, 220, 225) and quit allowing the other side to select the Texas House Speaker, maybe we can get some major pro-2A laws passed next time.

comments

  1. avatar Thixotropic says:

    You are correct.

    Bonnen AND his predecessor Joe Strauss (10 years) are/were both RINO pukes.

    Trust them as far as I do McStain’s butt buddy Lindsay Graham.

  2. avatar CalGunsMD says:

    “Oil and Gas Producing Counties: Counties with oil and gas production, and adjacent counties, should receive a portion of the production taxes the state collects so that the road system can be maintained for the dual purpose of accommodating the needs of the industry and providing adequate public safety. [Local]”
    That sounds like what we got here.
    So much for “Don’t California My Texas”

    1. avatar VicRattlehead says:

      Ever driven through Texas oil country? I have and let me tell you, they NEED that money. Lol!

      All those trucks are REEEEEAALY hard on the roads. I’ve seen ruts and upheaves in the road so deep I genuinely feared dragging my trucks belly by falling into them. It’s great fun pulling a trailer through there as they both bounce around like pinballs in 4-6″ deep ruts that tractor-trailer tires have pulverized into the pavement!

      1. avatar Katy says:

        I take it I’m not the only one to drive down 285. Crossing the state line from NM to TX is a revelation. One minute you’re floating on clouds, the next you’d think the “California in your Texas” is the San Andreas and The Big One is here.

  3. avatar Texican says:

    Dennis Bonnen needs to go already. I thought once Strauss left Constitutional Carry would be a slam dunk. He shamelessly lied and grandstanded for the cameras to blame his lack of support for the bill. It never ceases to amaze me how spineless most Republicans are when it comes to getting what the people want done.

    1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

      Yeah, the lying s o b sent me a reply/ letter stating how he was for the second amendment . After he found an excuse to not back constitutional carry ( he never was going to ) I sent him a letter calling him out on his stance. Never got a reply, now he is getting sued. Interesting to see how his future in politics works out. I also called on our governor and Lt. governor to get behind the constitutional carry bill and got crickets. Disgusting how some people are comfortable with the state licensing out their constitutional rights.

    1. avatar LKB says:

      That’s because HB2286 wasn’t passed (or even voted on) by the Texas Senate. This list is just bills that passed both houses and thus can become law with Gov. Abbott’s signature.

  4. avatar SteamTroller45 says:

    As it should be.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have Constitutional Carry, and any other infringement-eliminating law they can pass. However, I’m not willing to throw the thing of beauty that is the Texas government away for a speedy implementation.
    The US Constitution was designed to be a clear and concise document. The current Texas Constitution? With amendments, you need a wheelbarrow to carry it. The result? Politicians are too tied up in red tape and deadlines to make any quick, drastic changes without significant public support (like was had for Campus/Open Carry). And if literally anyone in power doesn’t like anything from a bill to an entire department, they usually can gut it in short order. The result is a big, slow government tied up in so much red tape it doesn’t infringe much unless asked by a majority of us.
    And, no, in no way is or will Texas ever go blue. See: the Wendy Davis election.
    Edit: holy cow I found an edit button on mobile!

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      The feckless statehouse Republican leadership is hardly a ‘thing of beauty’ in our system. In fact, I’m positive it’s based on either bribes, or a gentleman’s agreement between the two parties to accomplish little or nothing so both can continue to fundraise & campaign off it. Part of a successful popular government system, is responding to popular pressure; there’s quite a lot of it for constitutional carry at this point, and at this point, the political parties aren’t so much guarding against the fickle temperament of the voter base so much as openly defying a generational shift in policy goals.

      1. avatar SteamTroller45 says:

        You misunderstand me. Politicians are ugly, slimy, underhanded creatures no matter what color they wear. Nature of the beast. The thing of beauty here is that, much like capitalism understands that all humans are inherently selfish and accounts for that better than any other system, the Texas government realizes the nature of politics and has developed a method of keeping government small and change incremental. In the face of Progressives trying to ram things down everyone’s throat, that may not be good for this issue specifically, but it is reassuring for those of us who understand we didn’t get to this point in a day or even a decade, and accept the drawbacks of what is a rather unique and effective system.

  5. avatar User1 says:

    HB 2137 sound unacceptable and a danger to the public. No privileges should be given…

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      Oh, look; the same TSRA that is run almost exclusively by LEO and opposes Constitutional Carry*, supports unlicensed carry for police officers.

      Just watch me faint in shock. Well, at least we also are getting CC for disaster areas, if only for a week at a time. Between CC of long guns and all these other exceptions, it seems all but certain that Texans will soon warm up to the idea of completely unrestricted carry. Ten years after that happens our illustrious reps might finally nut-up and pass the damn bill.

      *They publicly claim they do, but every time the issue comes up they want to maintain some sort of licensing/restriction/accommodation that is supposed to keep the ‘wrong people’ from carrying legally, but in reality would just be carte blanche for police to harass those they know or suspect are carrying handguns.

      1. avatar Guesty says:

        That’s how it is here in CA. LEOs (current and retired) are exempt from nearly all our gun control laws.

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        “… supports unlicensed carry for police officers.”

        That’s not what this does. Just like exists for other folks who have shown a proficiency in other ways, such as a recently separated veteran or an NRA certified pistol instructor. There may be others. This excuses recently retired law enforcement only from the classroom safety and range requirements. They have to show they have completed that at their unit and then submit for the background check and licensure like everyone else.

        If the purpose of the classroom and range portions are, at least supposedly, to ensure people understand the basic safe handling practice of a firearm, and the student can show they have already completed that, then there is no reason to require any citizen to do so again.

        1. avatar Justsomeguy says:

          I don’t understand why this is a desirable or needed thing in the first place. Aren’t they already covered under LEOSA?

          This comment system sucks. It’s th worst one I use on any site.

  6. avatar BusyBeef says:

    Not sure why anyone would oppose a campaign promoting safe storage?

    1. avatar Cory C. says:

      Texas foster parent, here. The rules for firearm storage for foster parents are a bridge too far. I completely understand the need to keep guns away from foster kids, and I think that gun owners should always be answerable when they fail to take reasonable steps to keep their firearms from falling into the hands of children they’ve invited onto their premises. But what I’m required to do as a foster parent is keep my guns locked up separately from my ammunition. I’m also not allowed to carry (even though I have a CHL) in the presence of my foster child. I must also inform the licensing agency every time I get a new gun. I’ll let you ponder whether I am fully compliant or not, but the bottom line is that the current rules go too far. If I put a loaded firearm in a gun safe with a biometric or combination lock, that should be regarded as good enough. They can and should make being a dumbass illegal, but they shouldn’t make sensible conduct against the rules just because they’re trying to vigilant.

  7. avatar billy.hill says:

    When I lived in Texas I found it shockingly liberal. Everyone talked a good game but did nothing about it. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. To me it full of posers with big trucks, uncomfortable shoes, and huge hats.

    1. avatar Justsomeguy says:

      Sure are sorry you left………

      …Well, not really

    2. avatar Dave says:

      Where in Texas?

  8. avatar S R says:

    I’m happy with Texas gun laws as they are. No need to make any more changes. If you don’t want to fork over $40 every five years ($80 for the first five) to be able to carry in public then move to another state.

  9. avatar LKB says:

    Slight update:

    I missed another pro-2A bill that passed the legislature:

    HB 446 (https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/html/HB00446F.htm) lifts the prohibition against carrying clubs (which includes things like collapsible ASP batons) and the treatment of brass knuckles as completely prohibited.

    More a modernization of the TPC than anything else, but it does resolve the odd situation that existed before: non-LEO’s can carry knives and (with an LTC, of course) a handgun, but cannot carry a “less-lethal” implement like a sap or a collapsible baton.

  10. Well, I guess its better than Massachusetts ever was…..

  11. ….I thing were already at a level here where a “Pro-Trump supporter can get RED FLAGGED under a false accusation for interfering with a SJW/DemoCRAPs political safe space while in possession of a plastic butter knife…..” Just remember, with support of DemoCraps…It’s legal and okay to use Marijuana to self-medicate…So vote DemoCRAP and let them do the heavy mental lifting for you…Also, Illegal aliens are your friends…They’ll help you vote DemoCRAP when YOU can’t…

  12. avatar Boba Fett says:

    “(which on balance is probably a good thing)”

    On balance, I’d say that’s a great thing.

  13. avatar Cory C. says:

    A small correction: you can’t carry in a courtROOM but you can carry at a courthouse. This hasn’t stopped Collin, Dallas, and Denton County from using metal detectors at the door and therefore breaking the law, but the point remains.

  14. avatar #337ab7 test says:

    test

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