Texas Legislature Ends Session with 7 Pro-Gun Bills Passed

Texas Capitol
File Photo: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price

The Texas Legislature ended its 85th session, passing seven pro-gun bills. Governor Greg Abbott promptly signed two of them into law. The body also protected gun owners’ rights by blocking five anti-gun bills.

Governor Abbott signed two of the seven pro-gun rights bills into law. Both laws become effective on September 1, 2017. The first, Senate Bill 16, reduces the cost to Texas gun owners wanting to obtain a State-issued License to Carry (LTC). This bill, a priority bill for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, reduces the LTC fee for new and renewal licenses to the lowest cost in the nation, according to a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). Abbott signed the bill into law in a ceremony at a gun store just before the end of the legislative session, Breitbart Texas reported.

“No law abiding Texan should be priced out of the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Governor Abbott said following the bill’s signing. “I’d like to thank Senator Robert Nichols and Representative Phil King for their work in expanding liberty in Texas.”

Lt. Governor Patrick called the bill a top priority for the legislature when Senator Nichols introduced the bill in January. “SB 16 will make lawful carry more affordable for law-abiding citizens across the state,” the Lt. Governor stated. “No Texan should be deprived of their right to self-protection because of onerous licensing fees imposed by the state.”

Abbott also signed House Bill 1819 into law. The bill, authored by State Representative Drew Springer (R-Muenster) provides protection for gun owners purchasing a sound suppressor. “If the Hearing Protection Act that eliminates this federal requirement were to pass Congress before the Texas Legislature meets again in 2019, suppressor owners would have no way of complying with state law and could be guilty of a felony offense without this important change,” ILA officials stated. State Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) authored companion Senate bill, SB 842), and guided HB 1819 through the Senate for final passage.

During the final stages of the bill’s debate, State Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) added an amendment clarifying that a short-barreled firearm with a pistol grip (not non-Class 3 National Firearms Act) is legal to sell an own in Texas. The senator added an amendment to clarify questions about the legality in the Lone Star State relating to the Mossberg 590 Shockwave. Prior to the passage of this law, Texas was one of only two states where the gun could not be legally sold, ILA officials stated. State Representative Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) assisted in the House’s adoption of the Senate’s amendment. In 2014, Mossberg expanded its manufacturing capacity with a new facility located in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Five other bills passed by the Legislature await the governor’s signature. The governor has until June 18 to sign or veto the bills. The ILA details those bills as:

Senate Bill 263 (companion bills HB 372/HB 403/HB 782) – This measure repeals the minimum caliber requirement (.32) for demonstrating handgun proficiency during the range instruction portion of the License To Carry course.  This unnecessary provision negatively impacts LTC applicants with hand injuries or arthritis who would benefit from being able to use a smaller caliber handgun.  Sent to the governor on May 28.  If signed, would take effect on September 1.  Please thank Sen. Charles Perry & Rep. Drew Springer for sponsoring this legislation, as well as Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) for authoring HB 782.

Senate Bill 1566 (includes language from SB 1942/HB 1692) – Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant) successfully added a House floor amendment containing the language from his HB 1692 and Sen. Bryan Hughes’ (R-Mineola) SB 1942 to SB 1566, a bill relating to the powers and duties of the boards of trustees for independent school districts.  HB 1692 & SB 1942 allowed employees of school districts, open-enrollment charter schools and private elementary or secondary schools who possess valid LTCs to transport and store firearms out of sight in their locked cars and trucks.  These employees had been left out of the 2011 law banning employer policies restricting the lawful possession of firearms in private motor vehicles.  Sent to the governor on May 30.  If signed, would take effect on September 1.  Please thank Rep. Hefner & Sen. Hughes for sponsoring HB 1692 & SB 1942, respectively, and the authors of SB 1566 – Sen. Lois Kolhorst (R-Brenham) and Rep. Ken King (R- Canadian) – for agreeing to the amendment to their bill.

Senate Bill 2065 (includes language from HB 421/HB 981) – Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Farmers Branch) successfully added a House floor amendment containing the language from his HB 421 and Rep. John Wray’s (R-Waxahachie) HB 981 to SB 2065, a bill relating to the licensing and regulation of certain occupations and activities.  HB 421 & HB 981 allowed volunteers providing security at places of worship to be exempt from the requirements of the Private Security Act.  This could include License To Carry holders approved by congregation leaders, since the prohibition on possession of firearms by LTCs at places of worship is only enforceable if the location is posted or verbal notice is given.  Sent to the governor on May 30.  If signed, would take effect on September 1.  Please thank Rep. Rinaldi & Rep. Wray for sponsoring HB 421 & HB 981, respectively, and the authors of SB 2065 – Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) & Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) – for agreeing to the amendment to their bill.

House Bill 1935 – This legislation repeals the prohibition on the possession or carrying of knives such as daggers, dirks, stilettos and Bowies, by eliminating them from the prohibited weapons section of the Texas Penal Code.  Restrictions remain in place for possession or carrying of knives with a blade over 5 ½ inches long in public places and penalties are enhanced for carrying those in the same locations where the possession of firearms is prohibited, generally.  Sent to the governor on May 30.  If signed, would take effect on September 1.  Please thank Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock) for sponsoring and passing this legislation.

House Bill 3784 (includes language from SB 138) – Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) successfully added a Senate floor amendment containing the language from his SB 138 to HB 3784, a bill allowing persons approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety to offer an online course to cover the classroom portion of the required training for a License To Carry.  SB 138 exempts active military personnel and veterans who have received firearm instruction as part of their service within the last 10 years to be exempt from the range instruction portion of the LTC course.  Sent to the governor on May 28.  If signed, would take effect on September 1.  Please thank Sen. Taylor for sponsoring SB 138 and the author of HB 3784 – Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) – for agreeing to the amendment to his bill.

Two pro-gun bills did not pass through the legislative process successfully. Those bills include House Bill 1911 by Representative James White (R-Hillister) that would have allowed gun owners to carry without a license. That bill passed out of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee chaired by House Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford) on April 18, but died in the House Calendars Committee chaired by State Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi).

White’s bill is the first “constitutional carry” bill to receive a favorable hearing from a House committee.

A similar bill, House Bill 375, authored by State Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) had a hearing in the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee but did not receive favorable consideration. The bill was left pending in the committee after its hearing.

Five bills classified by the ILA as anti-gun legislation were blocked from passage by the Texas House. The ILA details those bills as follows:

House Bill 234 gutted portions of SB 273 from last session by limiting 30.06 signage restrictions and fines for improper posting to governmental property that’s occupied only by governmental agencies.  This would have excluded any public property occupied by private persons or entities on an occasional or recurring basis from the provisions of the law that passed in 2015.

House Bill 255 expanded the locations where License to Carry (LTC) holders would no longer be able to legally protect themselves to include facilities such as golf courses, amphitheaters, auditoriums, theaters, museums, zoos, civic centers and convention centers, provided they are posted off-limits.  This would have included the convention center in downtown Dallas, where NRA’s Annual Meeting will be held in 2018. 

House Bill 866 allowed certain persons to petition for a lethal violence protective order against an individual based on allegations that the person has engaged or is engaging in behavior that the petitioners subjectively deem to be dangerous.  Patterned after California law, individuals against whom such orders are issued could have been forced by the courts, without a hearing or key due process protections, to surrender personally-owned firearms to a law enforcement agency.

House Bill 899 repealed the current 30.06 and 30.07 signage requirements that apply to LTC holders and directed the Department of Public Safety to adopt rules and specifications for posting that couldn’t exceed the size of an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper – all in an effort to make it easier for property owners to restrict law-abiding license citizens’ personal protection options.

House Bill 3989 broadened the prohibition on possession of firearms by LTC holders in “amusement parks” by expanding the definition of such venues to include short-term events that offer amusement rides to the public – such as the Texas State Fair.  This could also have included any parking or loading areas available inside the entry points to such events.

Numerous other anti-gun bills that died in various House committees without a hearing. Those include so-called “terror watchlist”, “gun show loophole”, and “opt-out” legislation for public universities from campus carry and municipalities of certain sizes from open carry – as well as at least a dozen other misguided proposals attacking our Second Amendment rights, “the ILA reported.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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