U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s efforts resulted in the creation of the Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues. The committee hearing started at 9 a.m on 29 April 2021. Lt. Governor Patrick and other Republicans were and are receiving intense pressure to pass Constitutional Carry. It was listed as one of the top eight priorities in the Texas Republican Party Platform and by Republican Chairman Allan West.
While Lt. Governor Dan Patrick worked to set up the special committee, he was in negotiations with various Texas law enforcement agencies and associations to see if they could find a way to support Constitutional Carry. Some amendments were offered to gain support of law enforcement.
Two amendments which were mentioned were these:
- An amendment that creates a mandatory five-year sentence for felons in possession of a firearm.
- An amendment that would allow law enforcement to ask prosecutors in adjoining counties to prosecute when prosecution by a local prosecutor was refused.
While Lt. Governor Patrick was working the Senate, Governor Abbot committed to signing HB1927 if it came to his desk. The Commitment of both Lt Governor Patrick and Governor Abbott to Constitutional Carry had been questioned. Both have committed to passage of the bill, possibly with amendments favored by law enforcement.
The committee hearing was live-streamed.
Tara Mica of the NRA was the first invited speaker and did an excellent job.
While this correspondent did not watch the entire 10 hours of the hearing, in the opinion of this correspondent, the star of the committee hearing was Rachel Malone of Gun Owners of America.
Rachel is the Texas representative of Gun Owners of America. Rachel fielded the questions put forward by the committee members with competence, eloquence, and flair. Rachel has been working to pass Constitutional Carry in Texas for several years.
Ray Hunt of Houston Police Union moved to a “cautious neutral”, because of a possible amendment to create a five-year mandatory prison sentence for a felon in possession of a firearm. Hunt said the bill will not change metal detectors at the capitol, where a License To Carry (LTC) will still be required. University carry will still require an LTC. Officer Hunt stated when police see the LTC, we feel safe. Officer Hunt seemed to state police wanted to be able to stop handgun carriers, just because they were carrying a handgun, without reasonable suspicion of a crime.
The police wish to be able to go to other adjacent counties to prosecute when the county district attorney refuses to prosecute. Officer Hunt said the police had difficulty with the Harris County prosecutor refusing to prosecute felons in possession cases.
Senator Hinojosa told Officer Hunt he would only be able to obtain the amendments if the bill went to the floor of the Senate. He implied, if Hunt wanted to kill the bill, the committee was the place to do it.
Sheriff Brian Hawthorne of the Sheriff’s Association also came out in a cautious neutral position on the Bill. He said a large majority of sheriffs were in favor of the bill, but his association was only willing to occupy a neutral position because of concerns of some of the members. He could not take a position on hypothetical amendments until they were put forward to all the members of the association.
Sheriff Hawthorn said the Association was neutral on the bill, leaning toward it with small changes. He said most guns are stolen from cars, if people can keep their guns with them, the numbers stolen will be lowered. He particularly wanted lockboxes to be available at courthouses, to help keep people from leaving their guns in their cars.
Sheriff Hawthorn said the numbers of sheriffs in favor of the bill are high.
The committee was run extremely well run. It was done politely. Everyone who wished to speak had a chance to do so. One person testifying said she knew the bill would pass the subcommittee, this was just a formality, but she wanted to be on record opposing the bill. This correspondent noted roughly equal numbers supporting and opposing the bill.
The last testimony occurred about 7 p.m. Over 10 hours of testimony was given, with over 180 people testifying.
No amendments to the bill were passed in the committee. Any and all amendments may be considered on the floor of the Senate.
The bill came to a vote very shortly after the long hours of testimony. Five of seven senators voted to recommend passage of the bill and move it to the floor of the Senate. Those five senators were:
- Charles Schwertner, R, District 5
- Brian Birdwell, R, District 22
- Dawn Bukinghan, R, District 24
- Brandon Creighton, R, District 4
- Bob Hall, R, District 2,
The two senators voting against the bill were:
- Juan Hinojoso, D, District 20
- Eddie Lucio, D, District 27
The creation of the Special Committee on Constitutional Issues was key in moving this bill to the floor of the Texas Senate. It may be the key to the passage of Constitutional Carry in Texas. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick deserves credit for this.
It seems likely the bill will be passed in the Senate and signed by Governor Abbott. It this happens, Lt. Governor Patrick and Governor Abbott will both deserve credit for listening to their base and supporting the bill.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.