State Politics

Constitutional carry: State rep pushes gun bill during special session

Constitutional carry could soon be back on the Texas legislative agenda.
Constitutional carry could soon be back on the Texas legislative agenda. NYT

Some Texans are gearing up for a gun fight at the Texas Capitol during this special session.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland said he hasn’t given up on a plan to let Texans carry their firearms without first having to get a permit or safety training.

The controversial plan, known as constitutional carry, died during the regular legislative session this year. But the upcoming special session that starts Tuesday could be the right time to make this proposal law, the Bedford Republican said.

“Just in case any of you were wondering, I’m filing constitutional carry on day 1 of #specialsession,” the firebrand and longtime gun rights advocate tweeted after the regular session ended.

Right now, he said he’s working on the best plan to get the measure into law.

“It’s still the No. 1 priority of the Republican Party of Texas,” he said.

Some political observers say they don’t think there’s enough time to add this issue to lawmakers’ already full plate.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott already has named 20 items he’d like lawmakers to address while in Austin for the special session.

“Given tight deadlines and a huge menu of other controversial topics in the special, it is hard to see how constitutional carry gets much attention, especially since it isn’t on the Governor’s call,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

Especially as opposition remains strong.

Texas Gun Sense, for one, has already reached out to Abbott, asking him to not add this measure to his already lengthy to-do list.

That group and others worry that this proposal could open the door for felons and Texans with mental issues to end up carrying handguns in public, not to mention the fact that safety training and background checks could be bypassed for many.

“I think the (proposal) is completely irresponsible. There’s no need for it,” said Andrea Brauer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense. “Our current permitting process works. There’s absolutely no reason to remove it.

“If people want to walk around with deadly weapons, they should have a permit.”

Third time the charm?

Stickland filed a bill allowing constitutional carry in 2015, but it was overshadowed by two proposals that did pass — one allowing Texans to openly carry handguns in most areas of the state and the other allowing concealed handguns on some college campuses.

His proposal this year, he said, isn’t to expand who can carry a gun, or where they can carry a gun, and it doesn’t get rid of the License to Carry.

It would, however, make the license an option, instead of mandatory. He and others said earlier this year that they believe many gun owners likely will continue to renew their permits even if this measure becomes law because of reciprocity allowed with other states.

Stickland said he was disappointed when his proposal died earlier this year.

Guns could be one of the hot topics in Austin during the 85th Legislature’s first special session this summer. Rodger Mallison

Trying to save it, the plan evolved from Constitutional Carry, which removed restrictions such as requiring Texans to have a License To Carry, which ensures training, for Texans carrying handguns to Unlicensed or Permitless Carry measure.

The second version would have required Texans carrying guns to meet the same restrictions as those with a License to Carry, such as not having any felony convictions. They just wouldn’t have to take the steps, or pay the fees, to actually get a license.

That plan died as well.

‘There’s a chance’

Supporters have long lauded the fact that the proposal was approved by a House committee, calling it a historic development.

Critics point out that the measure never made it to the House or Senate floor for consideration.

“It didn’t even pass one chamber during the session,” Brauer said. “There is not the will to pass that bill in either chamber.”

Stickland disagrees.

He said he believes it could pass if the measure makes it through committee and reaches either the floor of the House or Senate.

“I think there’s a chance,” he said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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