OP-Ed by Rachel Malone, Texas director for GOA and star of GOA’s YouTube videos.
Currently, in the Lone Star State, you can go to jail for peacefully walking down the street, minding your own business, with your handgun in a holster – simply because you failed to jump through government hoops and ask for a permit.
This is the case even if you have had extensive training, you are behaving in a perfectly safe manner, and you have never committed any other crime.
That’s because in 1871, the Texas Legislature banned the carry of handguns outside of one’s property. Although subsequent legislatures have carved out exceptions to the ban – most notably in 1995, instituting the License to Carry program to allow certain people carry in public – that general prohibition is still on the books.
By contrast, 32 other states recognize the right of anyone who can legally possess firearms to carry a handgun, openly (visible), in public, without having to obtain a permit. And 18 of those states don’t care whether your shirt is on the inside or outside of your gun; they welcome either open or concealed carry of handguns without a permit for legal gun owners.
Even right here in Texas, legal gun owners can carry rifles and shotguns in public without a permit.
To say that Texas is behind the curve on handgun carry is a gross exaggeration.
Although some legislators have touted “significant” gun rights wins in the past few years, that claim is laughable. The most far-reaching bill that has passed recently was licensed open carry – a bill in which Texas joined 44 other states who had already declared that license holders wouldn’t go to jail if their shirt was on the wrong side of their gun. That’s hardly monumental policy.
The last session’s most significant “win” for gun rights was Constitutional Carry for Disasters. Unfortunately, the bill was so narrow and insignificant that it failed to even apply at all during the ongoing pandemic disaster.
That’s why this Thursday’s hearing is so significant. Multiple Constitutional Carry bills are on the agenda. These bills would recognize the right of honest Texans – those who can legally possess a firearm – to carry a handgun, open or concealed, with no permit required.
In other words, you wouldn’t risk going to jail simply because you failed to jump through government hoops and ask permission before carrying your handgun.
Legislators are already receiving floods of emails and phone calls on these bills – from Texans on both sides of the issue. Because the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee has the authority to decide whether to move the bill forward, it is important for them to hear from Texans.
Fortunately, it is easier than ever this year for gun owners to voice an opinion.
As always, Texans can call or email the committee members. This is quick and easy; a staff member will take your call or read your email and record your position on the bills. It’s important to call and email because this helps legislators understand how many Texans actually want them to fight for gun rights.
This year, however, the Texas House has a new system allowing online comments. All Texans can submit written comments online in favor of Constitutional Carry bills (HB 1238, HB 1911, HB 1927, and HB 2900). The comment form is open from now until the end of the hearing. These comments become a part of public records after the hearing, so it is critical for gun owners to show a strong presence.
Also, anyone can sacrifice a day to come to Austin for the hearing can speak for 2 minutes to show support for Constitutional Carry bills. GOA Texas is coordinating carpools and keeping volunteers up-to-date via text messages when you let them know you want to attend the hearing. See their tips for writing your testimony.
This is your opportunity to look the committee members in the eyes, share your story, and tell them why it is critical for them to pass Constitutional for the safety and security of the great state of Texas. While it’s a big trip for some, it’s a trivial sacrifice in comparison to our Texian history of the Battle of Gonzales, the Alamo Defenders, and others who lived and died for the cause of liberty.
It’s no secret that Texas boasts millions of gun owners who most certainly claim to care about protecting their rights. Now is the time for them to show up and make their voice heard.
Texas Constitutional Carry Priority Support
Gun Owners of America
Gun Owners of America has previously supported the right of members and staff to carry firearms on Capitol Hill for self-defense, as GOA supports the rights of all law-abiding citizens to carry firearms in their workplace. Gun Owners of America is a grassroots organization representing more than two million gun owners nationwide and is dedicated to protecting the right to keep and bear arms without compromise.