Last session, it was open carry. This session, the statehouse may take on a further-reaching firearm debate: Constitutional carry.
Rooted in the Constitution's Second Amendment, “constitutional carry” laws give any U.S. citizen the right to carry a firearm without a license — and is already permitted in 11 states and Puerto Rico. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, hopes to add Texas to that list.
"No Texan should have to pay a fee or take a class to exercise their right to bear arms,” said Stickland, in a statement. Stickland, whose reelection campaign motto is "More freedom, less government," has said permit-less carry is the original intention of the Second Amendment — and can even be considered a religious right.
"The right to keep and bear arms is essential to liberty — it comes not from government, but from God," Stickland's website reads.
If passed, no Texan would have to pass a criminal background check, drug or alcohol addiction test, or mental health screening before carrying a handgun. This would also eliminate any of the currently-required training courses on gun safety.
This is the second time Stickland has filed a constitutional carry bill; his 2015 legislation was never given a committee hearing. He believes the bill was overshadowed with the push for open carry and the concealed carry of handguns on public college campuses, two bills he also rallied behind.
Stickland’s House Bill 375 is by far the most sweeping gun rights legislation that’s been filed ahead of the session, which starts next month, but it joins a few others in loosening state gun laws, including a bill that would make the gun licensing fee free, one that would ban doctors from asking if patients have a gun in their home, and another that would specifically allow school superintendents to carry handguns during school board meetings.
State Democrats, however, have filed their own string of bills to regulate the state's lax gun laws. One would ban guns from state psychiatric hospitals, and another would amend the campus carry law to let public colleges opt out, a privilege private schools already have.
Stickland's bill mimics proposed laws in both South Dakota and Indiana, and members of Congress have hinted of submitting similar bills in the coming congressional session.
“The question that we need to ask ourselves is: does a state mandated test equal safety and I don’t think that it does,” Stickland told Austin’s KXAN News.