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Texas lawmaker files bill to allow the unlicensed carry of handguns

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FORT WORTH, Texas — There may be a new gun fight at the Texas Capitol next year.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland has filed a bill to allow “Constitutional Carry” — to let any Texan who legally owns a handgun carry it openly or concealed without first getting a permit — across the state.

“It is a major legislative priority for the Republican Party and very popular with my constituents,” said Stickland, R-Bedford. “I think there’s a real need for it.”

Texans have long been able to openly carry rifles and shotguns without a license except in places where carrying long guns is specifically outlawed.

As for handguns, laws have evolved to let gun owners carry handguns openly or concealed, in most areas of the state, including some college campuses.

But they need a License to Carry, which requires Texans to undergo training and pay a fee to have the license.

“This bill will make License to Carry optional,” Stickland said. “We would no longer require a license to carry a gun in Texas.”

This proposal, which comes in the wake of deadly school shootings and proposed school safety plans, could be part of a bigger safety discussion in the legislative session that begins Jan. 8.

Opponents say a majority of Texans are not calling for this change.

“Unlicensed carry is out of the mainstream,” said Marsha McCartney, a spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “It is not what Texans want.

“Maybe (Stickland) should pay a little attention to what they do want.”

Stickland filed bills to allow constitutional carry in Texas in both 2015 and 2017, but they were overshadowed by other gun proposals.

The measure last year made it further than in the past, being heard in a committee hearing, although it never reached the Texas House floor.

After the proposal died, “we made a decision, as much as we can, to help Texas pass constitutional carry next year,” Tim Macy, chairman of Gun Owners of America, said during the Republican Party of Texas state convention in June. “We will use resources … to push the Legislature and governor (to make law) constitutional carry.”

Republicans long have had the call for constitutional carry in their party’s platform, an outline of party beliefs that candidates do not always follow and are not bound by.

He said he believes it will gain support from more Republicans and a growing number of Democrats.

“They understand that when you have to pay a fee and take a test for your rights, that’s hurting minorities more than anything else.”

But that doesn’t mean such a proposal will pass the Texas Legislature this year, McCartney said.

“I would suggest to Mr. Stickland that he try really hard to get in with the mainstream,” McCartney said. “He didn’t get even 50 percent during this election.

“That means there are a whole lot of people who don’t agree with him.”

Stickland won his re-election bid with 49.83 percent, to Democratic challenger Steve Riddell’s 47.40 percent and Libertarian Eric P. Espinoza’s 2.75 percent.

Stickland, who noted that he “didn’t really even campaign” in his re-election bid, believes this bill will go further in 2019 than it did last year.

“I think it’s the year it can pass the House,” Stickland said. “And I highly doubt (Lt. Gov.) Dan Patrick will want it dying in the Senate.”

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