There are 19 states in the Union that recognize Constitutional Carry as the law of the land – that is, anyone who can legally own a firearm may carry it, openly or concealed, and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only permit they need. Another nine allow open carry without a permit, but not concealed. Given the standard stereotypes, one might assume the great state of Texas ranks high on that first list.
One would be dead wrong.
In the Lone Star State, anyone who can meet requirements for a license to carry (LTC) can get such a license, then carry either concealed or openly. But that may all change soon if Texas gun rights activists get their way. A bill to make Texas a Constitutional Carry state cleared the state House of Representatives by a respectable 84 in favor to 56 opposed – a 60% majority – but will it sail through the Senate as well? Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t think so.
The House Is in Order, but the Senate …
Under House Bill 1927, those 21 and older legally allowed to own a handgun can carry it in public without a license, either openly or concealed. Of course, anyone currently prohibited by law from having a firearm would still be unable to legally carry – despite what the use of the word “constitutional” might imply.
While the House version of the bill did quite well, the Senate version remains in committee with a future that is dubious at best. Bills in Texas require 18 votes from the 31-member Senate to make it to a floor vote. Since there are exactly 18 Republicans, this bill would require approval from every single one – and not all of them appear on board.
Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo is a Republican who isn’t so sure. He said he usually supports just about every gun rights bill, but that the system currently in place works. More research would be needed to convince him to vote for it, he says.
States’ Rights v Federal Supremacy
The current system, of course, is license to carry. The problem for Second Amendment supporters is that if a “right” requires a license – literally, a document saying the owner has government permission – then it isn’t a right at all but a privilege. The Second Amendment, of course, doesn’t call it a privilege. It states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
However, such licensing laws are in line with the Texas Constitution. The Lone Star State’s Bill of Rights explains:
“RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS. Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself and the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”
This discrepancy raises an interesting point for states’ rights advocates as well. The U.S. Bill of Rights says “shall not be infringed” and doesn’t include any sort of exception clause. As such, all Americans should, by law, be allowed to own any weapon – firearm or otherwise. Yet the state of Texas clearly does allow the legislature to regulate how those arms are carried in public. Does that make the license-to-carry law okay? Such an argument ignores the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution – but then so does most every states’ rights argument, and it’s not an oversight.
Resistance to Reason
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia is against it. “This bill does not make officers more safe,” he explained during a rally at the state Capitol. “It makes us less safe.” The bill, however, isn’t about making officers “more safe.” It’s about making American citizens safer, without requiring government permission first.
As Liberty Nation’s Scott D. Cosenza has pointed out numerous times, people who are okay with committing murder – one of the most serious criminal violations possible – wouldn’t change their minds because of some gun control law. No would-be murderer in Texas is going to let something like a license requirement stop him.
Add to that the fact that the police aren’t allowed to stop folks and ask for their license simply because they’re carrying a weapon in Texas – that would be like pulling someone over for driving simply to demand to see their license – and yet another interesting question comes up: What reason would officers have to fear lawfully armed citizens, with or without a license? It seems less about any practical difference in safety and more about relinquishing that last little bit of control over civilian lives.
One might argue that any government official – law enforcement or otherwise – who has good reason to fear the lawfully armed citizen is precisely why that citizen needs to be armed to begin with.
Lt. Gov. Patrick says he’ll speak with the law enforcement officers who oppose the bill, as well as the advocates who support it, but that he will pass it on for a discussion and vote on the floor only if he believes it has the votes to pass. Thus far, he says it does not.
Read more from James Fite.