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Friday, May 21, 2021

Texas House, Senate strike compromise on bill legalizing permitless carry of handguns

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2021 at 4:52 PM

click to enlarge A M&P Shield handgun in Austin on April 23, 2021. - TEXAS TRIBUNE / EVAN L'ROY
  • Texas Tribune / Evan L'Roy
  • A M&P Shield handgun in Austin on April 23, 2021.
The Texas House and Senate have reached a compromise on a bill to allow the permitless carrying of handguns, the top negotiators said Friday, moving it even closer to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for a likely signature.

The author of the legislation, Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, announced the deal in a statement Friday afternoon, and the Senate sponsor, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, issued a subsequent statement also acknowledging an agreement. Details of the compromise were not immediately available.

"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," Schaefer said.

Abbott has said he would sign into law a "constitutional carry" proposal. Schaefer's House Bill 1927 would eliminate the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not barred by state or federal law from possessing a gun.

With a deal struck, both chambers will need to approve the agreed-upon version of the measure before it heads to Abbott's desk to become law. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement that the HB 1927 compromise "will become eligible for a final vote early next week."

Permitless carry, long sought by gun rights activists, saw a breakthrough in April when the House passed HB 1927. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick initially said the Senate did not have the votes for it, but he created a new committee, referred HB 1927 to it and got it to the floor, where it passed earlier this month.

Before approving the bill, though, the Senate tacked on several amendments to address concerns by law enforcement groups that have historically opposed permitless carry. Those amendments at first alarmed some supporters of the proposal, with Schaefer saying he was "very concerned" they could lead to procedural issues in the lower chamber.

While Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, raised a procedural objection — known as a point of order — against HB 1927 when it returned to the House, he ended up withdrawing it, and the House proceeded to initiate a conference committee to work out the differences between the two chambers.

It was not immediately clear Friday whether the Senate amendments survived the conference committee, though Patrick sounded optimistic in his statement that the deal would reflect law enforcement interests. He said the bill "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 also used the statement to ding those who were skeptical that the legislation would reach the finish line. Texas GOP Chairman Allen West had accused the Senate of attaching "poison-pill amendments," which Patrick and his advisers, and West was questioning Patrick's commitment to the cause as recently as Thursday.

"Those who said HB 1927 would never pass and who perpetuated stories of a 'poison pill' and other conspiracies willfully misled many Second Amendment supporters in Texas," Patrick said. They also underestimated how hard members of the House and Senate were working to pass this bill.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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