AUSTIN, Texas - House Bill 1927, sponsored by state Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), would place handguns in the same classification as a long rifle - which currently can be carried in public without a state license.
To consider this controversial constitutional issue the State Senate Committee on Constitutional Issues was formed.
"We are moving with all deliberate speed now because now more than ever Texans want to make sure their 2nd Amendment rights are not only protected but restored," said Schwertner.
The committee members were told the bill does not do away with federal background checks or prevents gun-free zones, and people with gang affiliations could not carry a gun under the bill.
However, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) voiced concern that additional screenings may not be done for things like mental health and warrants, as well as domestic and traffic offenses. "So we are doing away with those checks," said Hinojosa.
Schwertner said he disagreed and also responded when Hinojosa asked about gun shows. "This bill is not about gun shows," said Schwertner.
Before the hearing began, the tone was set by a group of Texas police chiefs.
"Weakening regulations and effectively eliminating training requirements is not the direction that we should be going right now," said Interim APD Chief Joseph Chacon.
The committee spent the day hearing from more than 170 people. Many like Andrea Bower is worried that untrained people would be able to be in the community with a gun.
"What message does this send to Texans after 25 years of a system that works, to now say, we were wrong, training is optional, it’s not that important after all," said Bower.
Those who testified in support of the bill argued permitting violated their constitutional rights, while others argued from a point of access. "HB1927 helps the poor with at least the license aspect so they can at least protect their families," said Michael Belseck.
There are 20 states that allow permitless carry. It was argued some states saw an increase in the people getting a permit and training. Other states saw an increase in assaults with guns.
"I intend to pass this bill out of Committee today, and on to the entire Senate next week," said Schwertner.
"Once the Senate passes it out, the House and Senate will convene and work out any differences and get it to my desk, and I'll be signing it," said Abbott on WABP April 27th.
Schwertner said a state gun permit will remain in place for those who need one to travel to states that still require a license. He also released a list of amendments for the coming floor debate. They include eliminating a fee for gun permits, setting up a DPS online training course, a criminal offense for carrying a gun while drunk, and enhancing penalties for those who commit a felony with a gun.