Lawmakers are deliberating on a bill that would make Texas the largest state to let people carry handguns without a permit.
What Will House Bill 1927 Do?
The goal of HB 1927 is for all Texas to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms without going through the permit process. The permit-less carry bill passed in the Senate with 17-13 votes, while the House signed off on it with an 82-62 vote.
For gun rights activists and the National Rifle Association, this bill is everything they could have hoped for. Instead of going through the process of getting a permit, Texans over the age of 21 carry a handgun openly or concealed without a license or permit. Those with a criminal record will not have gun rights under this bill. Additionally, business owners can still prohibit firearms in their stores. Hospitals and schools will also remain prohibited spaces.
The final version of the bill includes harsh penalties for felons who get caught carrying a gun illegally and plans for a free online gun safety course. Governor Greg Abbott has yet to sign the bill into law officially, but many supporters are hopeful that he will approve it.
HB 1927 is a breath of fresh air for the NRA and gun enthusiasts, but law enforcement, crime victims, and lawmakers are concerned about the possible consequences. For example, police are worried that increased access to weapons will put guns in the hands of violent criminals who threaten public safety.
Victims and loved ones who lost their lives in the El Paso shooting are also speaking out. They view the bill as an insult to people who have been the targets of gun violence in recent years.
Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, sums up the general apprehension surrounding the bill by saying, “There are a large number of Texas families on both sides of the aisle that are literally afraid of your legislation.”
Representative Joe Moody, El-Paso, also reflected on his meeting with the victims’ families after the tragedy at an El Paso Walmart. He pointed out that lawmakers had promised to improve gun safety in light of the shooting.
To get some perspective on the vastness of the bill, more than 1.6 million Texans are licensed to carry handguns. With such a high population already possessing guns, the question remains, how many more people will purchase a firearm now?
What About People with a Criminal Record?
While the bill paints a bleak picture for former felons who want to own a firearm, the bill surprisingly includes provisions that would allow people convicted of unlawful handgun possession to expunge the charges. It is unclear whether the bill will affect those currently in prison for illegal gun possession.
While possible expungement is a good thing, those with a criminal record will be the main targets of arrests related to gun possession. Whether you have completed your sentence, probation, and all, the state will not extend gun rights to convicted felons.