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Texas Legislature Adjourns Sine Die After Passing Numerous Pro-Gun Bills

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Texas Legislature Adjourns Sine Die After Passing Numerous Pro-Gun Bills

Countless Gun Control Measures Pushed by Bloomberg-Backed Groups Fail

During a session marked by inaction on issues and public disagreement between the two legislative chambers, the Senate and House still managed to approve a number of pro-Second Amendment measures (the Governor has until June 18 to act on bills he has not yet signed):

(Click here for contact information for the state Representatives and state Senators mentioned below)

Signed Pro-Gun Bills:

Senate Bill 16 (companion bills HB 300/HB 339/HB 1024) -- This priority legislation of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will bring Texas’ License to Carry fees down to among the lowest in the nation, slashing the cost of an original LTC from $140 to $40 and reducing the price of a renewal LTC from $70 to $40.  Signed by Governor Abbott on May 26.  Effective September 1, 2017.  Please thank Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) & Rep. Phil King (R- Weatherford) for sponsoring this legislation, as well as Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) & Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) for authoring HB 339 & HB 1024, respectively.

House Bill 1819(companion bill SB 842) – This bill revises Texas statutes to track federal law regarding ownership and possession of firearm sound suppressors.  The Texas Penal Code currently requires these devices to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.  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.  An amendment was added in the Senate to clarify that non-NFA, short-barreled firearms with a pistol grip, such as the Mossberg 590 Shockwave, are not unlawful to sell or own in Texas.  The Lone Star State is one of just two states where this particular gun could not be lawfully sold.  Signed by Governor Abbott on May 26.  Effective September 1, 2017.  Please thank Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) & Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) for sponsoring this legislation, Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) for authoring the Shockwave amendment, and Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) for his work on the bill and the amendment throughout the process. 

Pro-Gun Bills Pending Signature:

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 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 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.

Defeated Bills:

The permitless carry and constitutional carry bills, House Bill 1911 by Rep. James White (R-Hillister) and House Bill 375 by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), respectively, both received public hearings in the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety.  NRA-ILA attended and was shown in support of both measures.  HB 1911, which would have allowed individuals who qualify for a License to Carry to carry a firearm without said license, was reported out by the committee but was never scheduled for debate and a vote by the full House.  HB 375, which would have allowed individuals who can legally possess firearms to carry them without a license, was left pending in the committee.  If you are unhappy with the outcome of these measures, now is the time to let your Senators and Representatives know about it!

National anti-gun groups backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and in-state gun control groups were extremely active – and wildly unsuccessful – this legislative session.  In vain, they attempted to add gutting amendments to every NRA-backed bill and shamelessly tied their restrictive agenda to otherwise-meritorious safety and suicide prevention proposals.  An unprecedented number of gun control bills were filed this session, predominantly by urban lawmakers.  Below is a list of some of the anti-gun measures that received public hearings and died in committee:

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.

Additionally, 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 -- were never scheduled for public hearings.  Please thank Senate State Affairs Committee Chairwoman Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee Chairman Phil King (R-Weatherford) for their roles in ensuring that gun control proposals did not gain any momentum in the 2017 legislative session.

Last, but certainly not least, thanks go out to all NRA-ILA grassroots volunteers, LTC instructors, in-state industry partners and pro-Second Amendment attorneys who took the time to attend hours of committee hearings to testify, or who contacted legislators by phone and email, for or against legislation impacting our Second Amendment rights in the Lone Star State!

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.