As we’ve covered previously, the Texas House has two “Constitutional Carry” bills this session. But activists have been divided, since the day the second bill was filed, as to which bill actually accomplishes their goal of permitless carry.
On Tuesday, the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety finally voted on one of those two bills – HB 1911, by Rep. James White – and left the other pending – HB 375 by Rep. Jonathan Stickland.
As we’ve explained in the past, the bills would allow law-abiding Texans to carry handguns without state-issued permits. Most gun rights groups in Texas preferred Stickland’s bill as White’s is more restrictive.
Chairman Phil King had been working with Reps. White and Stickland for the last couple weeks, discussing changes he wanted to see to both bills before he would allow them out of his committee.
According to activists, a deal had been reached last week between White, Stickland, King, and group leaders, but they say the deal was breached with Tuesday’s vote.
They say White had agreed to strengthen his bill. They say that all parties had agreed to accept these changes and support White’s bill. But in the days before the vote, King decided he would only allow White’s bill to pass if White agreed to undo the agreed-upon changes.
In the opening minutes of Tuesday’s committee meeting, King claimed the Attorney General’s office had some concerns with Stickland’s bill and said that he would bring HB 375 to a vote once those and other unspecified concerns had been addressed.
But later that evening, Attorney General Ken Paxton publicly endorsed Constitutional Carry in a Facebook post. He did not identify which bill he wanted to see pass, but it does suggest that he doesn’t want to be blamed for their failure.
Chairman King’s decision to stall HB 375 and advance HB 1911 was not very popular with activists, especially those who believed they had previously reached an agreement with him.
CJ Grisham, leader of Open Carry Texas called King a “spineless Republican” and an “authoritarian.”
Lone Star Gun Rights called King a liar.
Texas Firearms Freedom called King’s move a “death sentence” for Constitutional Carry.
When the National Association for Gun Rights learned of King’s decision, they posted the following graphic on their state-affiliate’s page:
NAGR even wrote a letter to King, telling him that if he changed the terms of their agreement by advancing HB 1911 in the weaker form, they would score the move as anti-gun.
The letter was forwarded to each of the members of the committee. Consequently, after voting for HB 1911, each of the other Republicans members gave statements in which they expressed support for taking it further.
Lone Star Gun Rights interpreted these statements to indicate they would have voted for HB 375 had King allowed it.
But Terry Holcomb of Texas Carry, an early supporter of 1911, expressed excitement over today’s result, while conceding that the original agreement was breached.
Nation Rifle Association’s state affiliate, the Texas State Rifle Association, did not mention either HB 375 or HB 1911 in their email alert to activists. After the committee hearing, they posted the following on their Facebook:
The TSRA did send out an alert after the bill passed committee, in which they did not use the term Constitutional Carry, instead calling it a step forward.
HB 1911 now moves to the House Calendars Committee to be assigned a date for debate on the House floor. But many bills in the Calendars Committee will never make it to the floor at all.
But the clock is ticking on both bills as the session is just over a month from completion.
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