Eighteen proposed amendments by Democrats to the legislation were summarily shot down Wednesday by state Republicans, who added eight amendments of their own. The legislation now returns to the House, which passed its own version in April. If the chambers reach agreement, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign it.
But Texas Republicans appear to be advancing legislation that most of their constituents don’t want.
“A lot of the [legislative] agenda right now seems at odds with public opinion,” James Henson, who heads the Texas Politics Project at University of Texas at Austin, told the Texas Tribune.
A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, co-directed by Henson, found that 59 percent of Texans oppose “permitless carry” — open or concealed — of handguns. The same poll showed that nearly half of Texas voters — 46 percent — want to see increased gun restrictions statewide, while only 20 percent want to see fewer.
Though the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas has tentatively said it will back H.B. 1927 if some modifications are made, multiple law enforcement officials testified against it while it was in committee. Houston Police Department Commander Jessica Anderson said it could “exacerbate” the problem of violent crime. In April, police officers from all over Texas gathered outside the state Capitol to protest the bill, among them Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
And in a news conference last week, interim Austin police chief Joseph Chacon said, “It’s reasonable and important to ask that someone carrying a firearm in public know how to safely handle and store a gun and have a basic awareness of the laws related to weapons and the use of deadly force.”
But proponents continue to champion the bill.
“This bill, to me, is a restoration of the belief in and trust of our citizens,” Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner said Wednesday. “We cannot allow another session to come and go where we pay lip service for the Second Amendment by failing to fully restore and protect the rights of citizens granted by the Constitution.”
For those on the right, it’s a politically savvy move. Pro-gun groups have pressured Republican lawmakers for years to adopt permitless carry laws. Organizations such as the Texas State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association donate only modestly to individual campaigns, but candidates covet their endorsements and positive ratings — on which Republican voters rely.
While these pro-gun groups continue to trot out tattered canards about “good guys with guns” deterring violent crime, studies have shown that right-to-carry laws don’t have that effect. In fact, a 2018 study of 33 states with such laws indicates the laws have increased violent crime by 13 percent to 15 percent.
At least 20 states have some form of constitutional carry laws, but even before passing this bill, Texas ranked 33rd in the nation in the annual gun law scorecard produced by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. More than 3,100 Texans are killed each year by gun violence, a statistic that has been on the rise since 1999. According to the Center for American Progress, 687 Texas women were shot and killed by a domestic partner between 2007 and 2016. And since 2015, some 200 Texas children have accidentally shot someone with an unsecured firearm — almost half of them fatally.
The Sutherland Springs shooter had been denied a license to carry, and shortly after the 2017 incident, Texas’s governor expressed concern that a legal loophole had failed victims.
“So how was it that he was able to get a gun?” Abbott said on CNN. “By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun. So how did this happen?”
And now Abbott is preparing to sign a law that would eliminate any permit requirement at all. Instead of looking for answers, Texas lawmakers are doubling down on proposals that put their constituents — gradually, then suddenly — at increased risk of gun violence.
“I can’t think of a worse piece of legislation to act on now than permitless carry,” Ed Scruggs, a Texas Gun Sense board member, told an Austin CBS affiliate. “It does nothing to make the people of Texas safer, and we believe it would jeopardize their safety if it is approved.”