On Thursday, the newly formed Texas Senate Committee on Constitutional Issues debated a bill that would allow individuals to carry a gun without a license or permit, a day after Gov. Greg Abbott came out in support of so-called "constitutional carry."
Although several law enforcement representatives testified in opposition to the bill, HB 1927, Texas Republicans have pushed forward with the measure. It's the latest in a string of proposals that would lessen restrictions on gun ownership or carrying firearms.
After nine hours of public testimony on Thursday, the committee voted 5-2 to send the bill to the Senate floor for a general vote, where its future remains uncertain. The state House passed permitless carry earlier this month.
If passed, HB 1927 would let people 21 years or older legally allowed to have a handgun carry the weapon without a background check or completing a safety course.
During testimony on Thursday, Houston Police Department’s Commander Jessica Anderson argued that permitless carry would create more violent crime at a time when gun incidents are on the rise.
“Major cities are encountering ridiculous amounts of violent crime these days,” she said, adding that the bill could “exacerbate” the problem. “We vehemently oppose any bill that does away with background checks and training as currently required.”
Anderson added, “Not a week goes by where there’s not news of another shooting in a road incident.”
Scott Rubin, a police chief from Blanco, insisted that Texas “has a long history of a successful permit-to-carry process.”
He said Texas already has constitutional carry. “We’re opposed to permitless carry,” he explained, saying that allowing Texans to carry arms without permits or training requirements would “remove virtually every safeguard” from the process.
The police officers echoed several law enforcement representatives who have spoken out against the bill in recent weeks.
Detective Frederick Frazier, chairman of the Dallas Police Officer’s Political Action Committee, said earlier this week that police officers worry about the lack of training that HB 1927 would allow.
“You don’t go through that background check, and you don't have that little fact check that says who the person is and what’s happened,” he said.
The committee hearing came the same week Gov. Greg Abbott said he would sign HB 1927 into law if it reached his desk.
“I believe it is making progress," Abbott said, as reported by Texas Tribune. "Once the Senate passes it out, the House and Senate will convene and work out any differences and get it to my desk, and I'll be signing it.”
On Thursday, many also spoke in favor of the bill in the Senate committee hearing.
Andy Turner, legislative director of Texas State Rifle Association, insisted that HB 1927 “is not about new gun owners.”
“This is a right restored,” she said. “This is about people who believe that this is a right that should have never been taken away from them.”
It remains unclear whether the Senate will pass the bill. Earlier this week, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said it may not have enough support to move forward.
Meanwhile, advocacy groups on both sides of the debate have jumped into the fray. Texas Gun Sense, a group that supports stricter gun laws, has circulated a petition against the bill, insisting that it will cause more gun violence.
Texas Gun Rights, an Austin-based advocacy group that supports the bill, has also put out a petition in favor of permitless carry.
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