Opponents of legislation allowing Texans to carry handguns without a state-issued license gathered Monday at the Capitol to press for delays that would effectively kill the bill.
State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said at a news conference that House Bill 1911 would thwart a process that requires gun owners to pass a criminal background check and take a course on handling weapons before then can receive a license to carry a handgun in public.
Allowing “constitutional carry,” as permitless carry is commonly known, would make it harder for Texas police to do their jobs but easier for criminals to be armed in public, Hinojosa said.
“I don’t believe there is such a thing as constitutional carry,” she said. “I and many others call it ‘convict carry.’”
HB 1911 passed a House committee April 18 and arrived Wednesday at the Calendars Committee, which will determine if the legislation gets a vote by the full House.
“There is ample time for this bill to become law,” Hinojosa said.
Calandrian Kemp, whose 20-year-old son George Kemp Jr. was shot to death in 2013, said removing the licensing system would endanger public safety, placing other mothers in danger of reliving “the pain we live every day.”
Representatives of the League of Women Voters, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Alliance on Mental Illness also attended the news conference, which ended with about three dozen volunteers with Moms Demand Action visiting the offices of Calendars Committee members to lobby against HB 1911.
The bill’s author, Rep. James White, R-Hillister, said permitless carry is nothing to fear.
To legally carry a handgun, HB 1911 requires Texans to meet the same standards required to get a license carry, White said. “You still can’t be a felon, you can’t have family violence on your record, you have to be mentally competent,” he said.
Allowing handguns to be carried concealed or in a holster, even without a license, would not be that big of a change, White said.
“Already, you can walk down the street with a rifle. Right now, you have guns in your automobile. Right now, you can have them in your boat,” he said. “All without a license.”
White said he didn’t have a sense about whether the Calendars Committee would schedule HB 1911 for a vote by the full House, adding that other priorities have been getting attention as the end of the legislative session approaches on May 29.
“We have a lot of big issues — CPS, the budget, mental health — that are front and center this session.