In: Criminal Defense

Permitless Handgun Bill Passes in Texas

As of September 1, individuals in Texas will be able to carry handguns without a license. As a state that has prided itself on responsible gun ownership, Texas has required licensing, training, and proof of shooting proficiency. But when the new permit-less carry laws go into effect, these requirements will no longer be necessary.

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed seven pieces of legislation protecting Second Amendment Rights under the law, including House Bill 1927, which removed the requirement that residents needed a license to carry. Individuals will no longer need any license or training to carry a handgun provided they are not prohibited under other state or federal laws.

This comes after months of emotional debate between lawmakers, handing a win to gun rights enthusiasts while defeating those who were vehemently opposed, especially after the increase in mass shootings in Texas over the last decade. Lawmakers in El Paso, in particular, have denounced it, citing the deadly mass shooting there in 2019 and that there had been no action to prevent other tragedies from happening.

Gov. Abbott responded that Texas will always be a leader in the defense of Second Amendment rights. “These seven laws will protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and ensure that Texas remains a bastion of freedom,” he went on to say.

Why the Turn-Around?

Many conservatives have historically tried without success to get these measures approved. Back in 2017, a similar bill could not pass.

While some Republicans, including Abbott, had been evasive about the bill, many felt they finally caved under extreme political pressure from gun rights advocates who have lobbied long and hard for permitless carry laws.

How Has This Changed Gun Laws in Texas?

Before this law, Texas residents had to be licensed to carry a handgun, both openly or concealed. This required training, passing a written exam, a shooting test, and the submission of fingerprints. This will all go away as of September 1.

Texas is considered a bellwether state for gun rights, and advocates believe it will open the door for new legislation in other states. In the meantime, many critics, including some in senior law enforcement positions, think it is dangerous given the recent surge in gun violence in the state.

The Arguments for and Against Permitless Carry

While advocates have repeatedly pointed to at least twenty other states with similar laws in defense of permitless carry, others believe it will open the door for more violence in a state that has suffered immensely in the last few years. According to a recent poll taken by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, a majority of Texans didn’t agree with permitless carry laws.

Compromises Made

Law enforcement groups have opposed the measure, saying that it could endanger officers while making it far easier for criminals to get guns in the state. Consequently, some last-minute compromises were made.

The Senate struck a provision barring law enforcement officers from being able to question an individual based purely on their possession of a handgun, and they also kept an amendment enhancing penalties for felons or those convicted of family violence who were caught carrying a handgun. The Department of Public Safety will also be offering a free online safety course for handguns.

You Still Cannot Carry Under These Circumstances

It’s important to note that Section 46.04 of the Texas Penal Code still makes it unlawful for anyone convicted of a felony to possess a firearm unless five years have passed since the completion of their punishment. However, Federal law has other restrictions.

You also still may not carry any firearms in the following settings unless you are a licensed peace officer:

  • Businesses that make 51% or over their receipts from alcohol
  • Schools
  • Sporting events
  • Polling places
  • Airports
  • Courtrooms
  • Jails and prisons
  • Any government buildings
  • Hospitals
  • Federal property or national park buildings

If you are facing criminal charges while exercising your right to carry a handgun in Texas, you should get the advice and guidance of a Denton criminal defense attorney to help you understand your rights and options. Contact the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC at (940) 222-2488 to schedule a case review.