On Wednesday, the Texas Senate will debate a bill that, if passed, would make Texas the 19th state to allow residents to carry a handgun without a permit. Texas already allows open and concealed carry of firearms in many instances, but a permit is still required.
Austin interim Police Chief Joe Chacon opposes the bill in its current form. He tells Texas Standard that it would make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to determine who is fit to carry a gun in the moment, especially during times of heightened tension like large protests.
“With this law, we’re really asking law enforcement to make all those determinations because there hasn’t been that [permitting] process that’s occurred,” Chacon told Texas Standard. “That just makes law enforcement’s job that much harder, and trying to figure out who should and can carry a firearm, and who probably shouldn’t be doing so.“
The current permitting system requires background checks and training – safeguards Chacon says gives officers “a level of assurance” that someone carrying a gun is a responsible gun owner. Without a permit, he says it would be unclear whether a person has gone through that process (which would still be required to purchase a handgun) or not.
Chacon says the current permit system works.
“I think that we’re trying to, you know, fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” Chacon said.
Lawmakers and advocates of the bill argue Texans have a constitutional right to carry a handgun without a permit. Chacon sees it differently.
“This is not about somebody’s constitutional right to carry a firearm,” he said. “We have been abiding by [the Second Amendment] through the LTC [Licence to Carry] process and people licensed to carry … have been able to obtain a permit and are able to do so and are able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
He says the law enforcement community has the attention of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Both officials have suggested in recent days that the bill has a good chance of passing in the Senate and becoming law. Chacon hopes the Legislature considers amending the bill to include concessions favored by law enforcement before it progresses further.