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Texas lawmakers reach agreement on ‘constitutional carry,’ bill author says

Man carrying a holstered handgun. (Clinger Holsters/Flickr)

Texas House and Senate members working to come up with a permitless carry bill agreeable to both chambers have reached a compromise, lawmakers announced Friday.

Both chambers passed versions of the “constitutional carry” bill that would allow Texans 21 and older to carry a handgun without a license as long as they’re not otherwise prohibited from having a firearm. But changes made to House Bill 1927 in the Senate were not agreeable to the House, and a committee made up of representatives and senators was formed to come up with a compromise bill.

The bill’s author Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, announced that a deal had been reached on Friday afternoon after hinting at the development the night prior.

“The House and Senate conferees have reached an agreement on House Bill 1927, a critical benchmark before this bill reaches Gov. Abbott’s desk,” Schaefer said in a statement. “By working together, the House and Senate will send Gov. Abbott the strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history, and protect the right of law-abiding Texans to carry a handgun as they exercise their God-given right to self-defense and the defense of their families.”

Senate sponsor Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who co-chaired the conference committee with Schaefer, celebrated the agreement in statement. Neither lawmaker’s prepared comments specified what’s in the compromise bill.

“Texas has fulfilled the promise of our founding documents by finally restoring the right of law-abiding Texans to carry a handgun without a license for the defense of themselves and their loved ones,” Schwertner said in a statement.

The conference committee is tasked with preparing a report on the agreed version of the bill that is sent to both chambers for approval. If approved by the House and Senate, it heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

“I have worked hard alongside Sen. Schwertner to deliver the votes needed on HB 1927,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement. “The bill will become eligible for a final vote early next week, and on that day we will celebrate this great Second Amendment victory.”

He called the legislation “a historic bill and a national model.”

“It includes the thinking of national gun rights advocates and many in Texas law enforcement and affirms our commitment to protect the rights of gun owners and the safety of those in law enforcement,” Patrick said.

Changes made to the House bill in the Senate on May 5 as it was considered on the floor include amendments that were priorities for the Texas Sheriffs Association. The group supports the bill as long as the key changes remain, a position shared by Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn.

One amendment would prohibit permitless carry for people convicted of certain misdemeanors in the past five years. Another removed a part of the bill related to the expungement of unlawful possession of a firearm offenses.

Many Texas police chiefs have expressed opposition to the legislation. Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes in a late April letter said the department doesn’t support any legislation that would allow a handgun be carried without a license.

The Texas Police Chiefs Association wrote to conference committee members reminding them that “law enforcement’s concerns were voiced early and often.”

“At a time when violent crime is increasing in Texas and the Stare is trying to meet challenges related to mass attacks in public places, increasing gang and drug related violence in major urban areas, and a high number of arrested and/or convicted felony offenders committing crimes after their release, it seems imprudent to support legislation that allows for unlicensed constitutional carry,” the May 17 letter reads.

“It’s more concerning to consider the legislation without any of the safeguards that the Senate passed,” it continues.

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(c) 2021 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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