Texas Legislature

Locked and Loaded: Permitless Carry Takes Effect in Texas

Moms Demand Action volunteers are equipping business owners with signs prohibiting firearms.
Moms Demand Action volunteers are equipping business owners with signs prohibiting firearms. Courtesy Moms Demand Action
click to enlarge Moms Demand Action volunteers are equipping business owners with signs prohibiting firearms. - COURTESY MOMS DEMAND ACTION
Moms Demand Action volunteers are equipping business owners with signs prohibiting firearms.
Courtesy Moms Demand Action
From here on out, Vickie Parker is going to be pickier about where she shops.

On Wednesday, a new law took effect allowing most Texans to carry handguns in public without a permit or training. Parker, a precinct chair with the Collin County Democratic Party, believes the so-called “permitless carry” law could spell disaster.

Shop owners still have a right to bar guns, but Parker said the new legislation could put them at risk. It’s similar to how some owners now require face coverings absent a statewide mask mandate, she added — except that it could get a lot more volatile.

“The business owner is in the position to be judge and jury again,” Parker said. “Now that this person has a gun instead of a mask, now you have a potentially deadly situation.”

Signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in June, House Bill 1927 attracted controversy from the start. While some lauded the measure as necessary to protect Texans’ Second Amendment rights, others warned that it could lead to a spike in gun violence.

Texans no longer need to have a license to carry a handgun as long as they’re not prohibited by federal or state law from possessing a firearm. Some law enforcement officers have spoken out against the bill, including Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia.

Female business owners, in particular, will likely face more of a burden because of a “physical intimidation factor,” Parker said. Women may feel threatened by having to ask a large man with a gun to leave.

Parker herself has experienced blowback from gun violence: In 2004, her son was shot through the chest at point-blank range. Although he survived, he still deals with the aftereffects.

“The results of permitless carry in the businesses is that deaths are going to increase and businesses are going to suffer,” Parker said.

Over the past decade, firearms deaths in the state have steadily risen, said Donna Schmidt, a local group lead for Dallas County Moms Demand Action, a grassroots gun safety organization. In 2019, a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart killed 23 people, and Tuesday also marked the two-year anniversary of the Midland-Odessa shooting, which took eight lives.

"We’re not seeing the blood in the streets and the danger that some people are concerned with." – Andi Turner, Texas State Rifle Association

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Schmidt has started canvassing local businesses to pass out anti-gun signage. If the business or property owner posts a sign at each entrance with the appropriate wording and size, then it will be illegal for anyone to carry a gun onto the premises without a license to carry.

It’s unfortunate for business owners because such signage takes up space on their business’s façade, she said. Still, it’s the last option they have.

“It’s just so disheartening and discouraging and frustrating and frankly maddening that this is where we are,” Schmidt said.

Yet it’s impractical to assume that someone will be confrontational because they’ve violated such a sign, said Andi Turner, legislative director for Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA). Law-abiding gun carriers will certainly leave when asked — including when asked by a female business owner. Blowing past the sign and being asked to go could leave them with a "very stiff penalty."

Turner said she’s heard from a busy single mom who had raved about the bill because it allowed her to bypass the time and expense of the license to carry process. It’s misogynistic to tell a woman how she can defend herself, she added.

If business owners choose to make rules for their establishments, they should post them regardless, Turner said. Then it’s up to the customer to decide whether to spend their money there.

TRSA supports permitless carry because it means that Texans don’t have to have the government’s permission to exercise their constitutional rights, Turner said. At the same time, it precludes felons and people convicted of certain misdemeanors.

Plus, at least 20 other states already have similar legislation, Turner said.

“We’re not seeing the blood in the streets and the danger that some people are concerned with,” she said.

But Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, said looking at data from other states isn’t comparable because Texas has a large population and several major urban centers.

The new law is unsafe on its face, she said: It allows Texans to carry a lethal weapon without training or a background check, and they no longer have to demonstrate a certain level of shooting proficiency. Data repeatedly show that more guns don’t make people safer, especially when they’re in the hands of untrained and unvetted people, she said.

If a good guy with a gun tries to stop a bad guy with a gun, Switzer said it could be difficult for law enforcement to determine which person is in the right. And the argument that certain people with criminal records are banned from carrying guns in public doesn’t hold, she added.

“If you’re a felon, you’re still not supposed to have a gun in public. Who’s checking that? You haven’t had a background check,” Switzer said. “When are we going to catch it — after somebody’s dead?”
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter