In a memo to members informing them of what to expect from the Texas Legislature, the Texas State Rifle Association omitted the top legislative priority of the state’s Republican Party and what is likely to be the most contentious gun-related issue of the session: constitutional carry.
Voted as the number one priority of the Republican Party of Texas by delegates at the 2016 GOP Convention in Dallas, “constitutional carry” refers to removing the licensing requirement for Texans to carry a handgun.
Though conservative State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Beford) pre-filed the legislation in November, thus far the Texas GOP has been glaringly silent with Chairman Tom Mechler refusing to endorse the measure publicly or respond to repeated requests for comment.
The TSRA, which claims on its website to support “the fewest restrictions for law-abiding Texas gun owners,” doesn’t mention the legislation at all in a recent letter to members.
Instead, the TSRA is cheerleading a proposal by State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) that would eliminate the $140 fee that Texans are currently subjected to in order to obtain a license while also providing cover for liberal politicians. Texans would still be required to take a class, get fingerprinted and submit documentation to obtain a license even if Nichols’ measure is successful.
“Both Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Straus are supportive of enhancing the rights of Texas gun owners,” writes TSRA Legislative Director Alice Tripp in the “New Year Alert to TSRA Members” memo.
But while Patrick possesses gun-friendly bona fides, Straus is a known opponent. Just last session Straus directed his coalition government of Democrats and liberal Republicans to water down open carry and campus carry proposals.
Gun rights activists involved in the process have long been skeptical of Tripp’s methods and the integrity of the TSRA.
Still Tripp’s letter does contain one truth: Republicans control the entire government of Texas with supermajorities in both chambers. The passage of Republican priorities and the defense of Texans’ gun rights is their responsibility.