On Tuesday, Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee Chairman Phil King (R–Weatherford) chose to advance House Bill 1911 by State Rep. James White (R–Woodville), which would repeal the state licensing requirement for citizens to carry a handgun. However, the requirement would only be repealed for people who are currently eligible for a License to Carry.
Initially introduced as a watered-down version of Bedford Republican State Rep. Jonathan Stickland‘s House Bill 375, HB 1911 was radically improved in the committee shortly before the hearing, but still excluded a hefty number of citizens. However, many of those improvements were stripped out Tuesday before the bill was allowed to pass.
The motion to pass the legislation was a party-line vote of 6-2.
Second Amendment organizations had mixed views of the result. The establishment-friendly Texas State Rifle Association, who only came to support the issue after receiving heavy blowback for inaction from gun owners, is hailing the bill’s advancement as a victory. Other, stronger gun groups, however, are panning the weakened measure as an intentional dilution of Second Amendment reforms.
“Phil King is trying to kill Constitutional Carry” blared the subject line of an email from Lone Star Gun Rights, a consistent and aggressive gun rights advocacy group.
“Phil King made the decision to not vote on HB 375, instead opting to bring forward a vote on the far more restrictive HB 1911. Prior to the vote, 5 of the 6 Republicans made statements that HB 1911 did not go far enough to be Constitutional Carry, but all 6 voted to pass it out,” it continued. “This means that had King brought HB 375 up for a vote, it would have passed.”
Another genuine gun rights organization, Open Carry Texas, issued scathing criticism of King as well:
“Chairman King has just made clear that he is no friend of the Second Amendment,” said CJ Grisham, the founder of the organization. “By watering down HB 1911 with unconstitutional eligibility requirements and refusing to take action on a bill that would expand gun rights back to their rightful place, King has betrayed the grassroots and turned his back on smaller government.”
Grisham’s sentiment about the new, watered down version of the legislation was shared by State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler), who said the modified HB 1911 was “too restrictive” and didn’t capture the “ultimate intent” of constitutional carry. However, as noted previously, he and other Republicans on the committee backed the bill in order to keep the issue alive.
It’s worth noting that HB 1911 could potentially be bolstered on the floor of the Texas House by amending the language of HB 375 on to the legislation. That fact is well known by the House Calendars Committee, which it’s rumored will bottle up the legislation unless Stickland and other constitutional carry advocates agree to withhold amendments—a compromise the conservative lawmaker is likely unwilling to make.
According to Stickland, King has demanded he water down his bill before he will pass it out of committee. Stickland has thus far refused.
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) April 18, 2017
Should the measure proceed to a vote on the House floor, State Sen. Don Huffines (R–Dallas) has expressed that he is “eagerly awaiting the opportunity to sponsor” constitutional carry in the Texas Senate.