AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - After about six hours of debate, the Texas Senate passed a permit-less or constitutional carry bill, 18-13.
Under House Bill 1927, Texans 21 and older would no longer need a license, training, and to pass a test to carry a handgun in public.
That's already the case when it comes to long guns.
Supporters say most people who buy a gun will still need to pass a federal background check.
Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Bryan, who laid out the bill said, "We cannot allow another session to come and go where we paid lip service to the second amendment while failing to fully restore and protect the rights of citizens granted by the constitution."
Republican Senator Jane Nelson of Grapevine said while she strongly supports the second amendment, she was concerned about domestic violence victims."I'll be real honest with this, and people on the floor know, I have struggled with this."
Schwertner told Nelson that he would introduce amendments that would stiffen state penalties against convicted felons caught carrying handguns.
The amendment would boost the crime to a third-degree felony from a second-degree felony, and would mandate a five year state prison sentence, which is an increase from a two year sentence.
Nelson said, "You have assured me that one of these amendments will address that issue and we're not going backwards on that."
Schwertner told her, "We're actually enhancing penalties on one of the amendments regarding domestic violence."
Nelson said, "I'm so happy to hear that."
Many police chiefs, including Eddie Garcia of Dallas, and Jimmy Perdue of North Richland Hills, oppose the measure saying the public should still be required to be trained on how to use and store handguns.
Chiefs are also worried about keeping criminals from carrying weapons.
Republican Senator Kelly Hancock announced that Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn supports the legislation.
We called the Sheriff's department to confirm, but haven't heard back.
Democratic Senator Beverly Powell of Fort Worth read a message from her son who was recently attacked by a homeless person in Austin. "This bill wouldn't have made me safer that day. It sure as hell won't make Texas safer."
She also expressed concern that many officers oppose the bill. "I don't believe that I saw a single police chief or a police association testify in favor of this legislation."
Schwertner said despite past concerns by police organizations that there would be shoot-outs on street corners, "That never has come to bear."
Democratic Senator Nathan Johnson of Dallas criticized supporters who call this constitutional carry, citing a past opinion by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who said states could regulate the second amendment and require permits. "If anybody refers this to constitutional carry, they're talking about something that doesn't exist. They're taking in vein our founding documents."
Most Democrats oppose the bill, while most Republicans support it.
The full House passed the legislation, but the bill approved by the Senate will return to the House for members to consider the amendments.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued this statement following the passage of House Bill 1927:
"I am proud that the Texas Senate passed House Bill 1927 today, the Constitutional Carry bill, which affirms every Texan's right to self-defense and our state's strong support for our Second Amendment right to bear arms. In the Lone Star State, the Constitution is our permit to carry. I congratulate Senator Charles Schwertner for his leadership on this important issue and for the thoughtful and respectful debate in the Texas Senate today. We have moved quickly on this legislation and I want to thank all those involved who helped gather the votes needed to pass this historic bill."
The following statement was released by the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Carol Alvarado on behalf of the caucus:
HB 1927 strips away the last remaining safeguards protecting Texans from untrained and unfit individuals being able to carry a handgun in public.
Current state laws protect Texans from felons, domestic abusers and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders who seek to arm themselves. People charged or convicted of class A or B misdemeanors in the prior five years, persons who are chemically dependent or people "incapable of exercising sound judgment with respect to the proper use and storage of a handgun" cannot currently get a license to carry in Texas. However, under HB 1927, these people would be free to carry a handgun in public.
By getting rid of the basic requirement to obtain a license to carry and background checks, Texas Senate Republicans are making it easier for dangerous individuals to carry a gun nearly everywhere they go.
Texas is in the midst of a gun violence epidemic. Twenty-seven Texans were killed in Sutherland Springs. Six months later, 10 more were killed at Santa Fe High School. One year later, 23 were gunned down at a Walmart in El Paso. One month after that, seven were killed in Midland-Odessa. In an average year, nearly 3,500 Texans are killed by a gun, and another 9,000 suffer from a gun-related injury. Despite these alarming facts and strong opposition from the Texas Police Chiefs Association and the Texas Municipal Police Association, the Republicans in the Texas Senate have prioritized more unregulated guns at the expense of public safety.
Texans know we need more gun safety laws, not less. Law enforcement knows this bill puts officers in harm's way. License to carry instructors testified that some individuals they train lack such basic knowledge of firearms that they load bullets into a gun's chamber facing the wrong direction. Private property rights are being undermined and businesses are saddled with the burden of enforcement while trying to recover from the pandemic. It seems that the only people in Texas who support doing away with a license to carry, background checks and basic firearm safety training are Republican lawmakers.
HB 1927 makes Texans less safe, plain and simple. That is why the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus stood united in staunch opposition to this dangerous legislation.
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