Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute
Senate Committee on State Affairs
February 26, 2020
Regarding the Committee’s Charge:
Examine Second Amendment legislation passed since the 84th Legislative Session including open carry, campus carry, and lowering the license to carry fee. Determine the impact these laws have made on furthering and protecting Second Amendment rights. Make recommendations that may further protect and enhance Texans' Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Today’s charge is an important one. Open carry, campus carry, and increasing access to carry licenses by lowering fees all represent significant steps forward for Texas in terms of strengthening the state’s already strong second amendment protections. But the list of second amendment protections passed by the Texas Legislature over the last three legislative sessions is far more extensive than those three key bills. The biggest example, currently, is the combination of Senate Bill 2065 (85R, Hancock) and Senate Bill 535 (86R, Campbell), which together allowed volunteer security services to carry handguns in churches. On the morning of December 29, 2019, a man attempted a mass killing inside a church in White Settlement, Texas. While he tragically was able to kill two parishioners, a volunteer security provider named Jack Wilson shot the man and killed him within six seconds, saving the rest of the lives of the churchgoers that day. Several other members of the congregation were also prepared to act.
While laws to make it easier to carry firearms in churches and other places of worship are criticized by the media and anti-gun constituencies, those narratives often don’t square with the facts. For example, following the White Settlement church shooting, an opinion piece in USA Today stated that “Jack Wilson is exactly the type of person you want around with a gun because he's a firearms instructor. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns. And that's terrifying.” As TCCRI’s General Counsel, Russell Withers, explained in a piece titled “Some Gun Laws Work Quite Well:”
Those "terrifying" other members of the congregation carrying firearms in church? We actually know quite a bit about them. As licensed handgun carriers, they've completed state mandated classroom and field training taught by instructors like Jack Wilson. They've provided fingerprints and undergone an FBI background check. And statistically, we know that individuals licensed to carry handguns in Texas commit crimes at far lower rates than the general population. These people are a far cry from "terrifying." They're heroes. We should celebrate the gun laws that allowed them to save lives and avert an even greater tragedy.
For the purposes of this testimony, an appendix is included that highlights over 30 pro-Second Amendment reforms passed by the Texas Legislature over the last three sessions. These reforms range in scope from allowing accidental carry of firearms in airports, to restricting local governments from regulating or banning knives, to reducing fees for targeted groups and for everyone, to allowing the use of silencers, to allowing legal carry of a firearm in the wake of a natural disaster.
Much like campus carry, which was predicted by many, including Texas professors writing in the pages of the New York Times, to result in increased violence on college campuses, these reforms have collectively advanced the constitutional right to self-defense, and there is no indication that they have made anyone less safe. In fact, revisiting the campus carry issue, a recent piece in the Washington Examiner, titled “Myth busted: Campus carry never caused that increase in violence liberals predicted,” explains how opponents have been forced to concede that fact:
The trouble with such predictions is that they tend to be tested as time goes by. And as it turns out, they simply weren’t true. Students just aren't waging the gun battles that anti-gun activists expected. A new report from the College Fix looked into this narrative, and it came up empty.
When a reporter reached out to numerous universities that permit campus carry, “all of the schools that responded confirmed that they have seen no uptick in violence since their respective policies were put in place.” Responding colleges included Emporia State University, Dixie State University, and Valdosta State University. Separately, the Texas Tribune has reported that after the Lone Star State implemented campus carry at four-year colleges state-wide, it resulted in “no sharp increase in violence or intimidation,” and in fact, the following year was “quiet” and “uneventful.”
These are just a few examples, but even studies cited favorably by gun control advocates admit that “results certainly do not prove that campus carry causes more crime.” Essentially, it's now clear that conservatives and libertarians had this one right. Allowing American adults aged 18 to 22 to exercise their Second Amendment rights on public college campuses is a no-brainer, as there are few rights more fundamental than the right to self-defense. Plus, the inconsistent nature of current “gun-free campus” rules already makes little sense.
Indeed. Despite alarmism to the contrary, the Texas Legislature has steadily expanded Second Amendment protections and that expansion has not come at the expense of safety.
TCCRI’s recommendation to the Committee and to the entire Legislature would be to stay the course. Continue to look for ways to protect the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and to do so with the confidence that it has shown over the last several legislative sessions. The Legislature considers numerous bills pertaining to firearms and the Second Amendment every legislative session, and these bills are broad in scope and intent. Here are but a few examples of bills filed in past sessions that are worth considering again:
Senate Bill 117 (Creighton, 86R) – SB 117 would have clarified that firearms prohibited on school premises under the Penal Code are only prohibited on premises owned by and under control of a school district and where school sponsored activities are taking place. This addresses a situation in which gun owners who are licensed to carry may arguably be prosecuted under Section 46.03(a)(1) of the Penal Code even though no school activity is taking place or if the district does not own or control the premises.
Senate Bill 459 (Huffines, 85R) – Senate Bill 459 would have expressly preempted and prohibited local governments from regulating the sale, purchase, and manufacturing of firearms, ammunition, knives, and air guns. It also would have prohibited the imposition of taxes on the same items and transactions. The bill would be a strong second amendment protection as local governments have shown an increasing willingness to impose unreasonable restrictions on their residents.
House Bill 227 (Krause, 86R) – HB 227 makes clear that all firearms, parts, and ammunition manufactured in Texas are not subject to federal regulation under Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. The effect of this would be that firearms, parts, and ammunition existing solely in intrastate Texas commerce would be subject only to the laws of Texas. Such a policy would reinforce the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees that people have rights not enumerated in the constitution, as well as the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which specifies that powers not expressly granted to the federal government in the constitution are reserved to the states and to the people. HB 227 was scheduled for a public hearing on April 17, 2019, but no further action was taken. In the 85th Legislative Session, the bill (HB 131) passed out of committee, but was never placed on a House calendar. The bill would be a strong second amendment protection.
House Bill 1126 (Bell, 86R) – House Bill 1126 would have provided that the person with control over the premises of a business (such as an owner or manager) who allows entry on the premises by a license holder with a concealed handgun would not be civilly liable for damages arising from the lawful carrying of a concealed handgun on the premises. Under current law, a business owner (or his or her insurance company) could theoretically face a lawsuit for actions arising from the lawful carrying of a handgun on the premises. For example, a business owner could be dragged into litigation if a licensed handgun holder inadvertently shot an innocent person while attempting to stop a robbery of the business. The bill would eliminate this concern.
House Bill 781 (Shaheen, 85R) – HB 781 would have required the immediate issuance of an electronic format temporary license to carry a firearm upon approval of an applicant to be issued as license to carry. As of February 24, 2020, the Texas Department of Public Safety currently states on its website that it “will make every effort” to issue a license within 60 days of receiving a completed application packet.[v] People carry handguns for self-defense, and closing a 2+ month window between approval and issuance is a worthwhile goal that will enhance their ability to protect themselves and their friends and loved ones.
House Bill 4041 (Toth, 86R) – House Bill 4041 would have prohibited a state or local entity or any of their officers from adopting “a rule, order, ordinance, or policy under which the entity enforces, or, by consistent actions, allows the enforcement of, a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation” that imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation that does not exist under the laws of Texas, and that purports to, among other things, regulate a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition. An entity that violates these provisions would be ineligible to receive state funds. Enforcement could be initiated by citizens or the attorney general. An individual who acts as an officer for a covered entity commits a Class A misdemeanor for acting to violate these provisions. The bill essentially creates a “sanctuary” from unconstitutional gun laws. The bill was scheduled for a public hearing on April 17, 2019, but no further action was taken.
84th Legislative Session
Senate Bill 473 (Perry | et al.) – Relating to defenses and exceptions to the prosecution of the criminal offense of the possession, manufacture, transport, repair, or sale of certain prohibited explosive weapons, firearms, and related items.
85th Legislative Session
HB 435 (King, Ken | et al.) – Relating to the carrying of weapons, including the application of certain weapons and handgun license laws to certain persons, the carrying of handguns by license holders on the property of a state hospital, and the liability for certain actions of volunteer emergency services personnel licensed to carry a handgun; providing a civil penalty.
86th Legislative Session
HB 3231 (Clardy | et al.) – Relating to the regulation of firearms, air guns, knives, ammunition, or firearm or air gun supplies or accessories by a county or municipality.
SB 1754 (Huffman) – Relating to the prosecution of the offense of taking or attempting to take a weapon from certain officers, investigators, employees, or officials.
PDF Version with End Notes.