May 14, 2021

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says ‘constitutional carry’ bill doesn’t have the votes to pass Texas Senate

They have also defended gun rights.

But now members of the Texas Senate must decide which one prevails as those top Republican priorities collide in what has become one of the biggest hot-button issues the Texas Legislature will take up this year.

While a bill to allow most people to carry a handgun without a license sailed through the Texas House, it now faces a Texas Senate where the leader, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made his support for law enforcement a critical part of his political identity. And a large contingent of Texas law enforcement officials have adamantly opposed legislation that would allow unlicensed carrying of weapons, despite some gun-rights groups pushing Republicans to make the bill law.

“This bill does not make officers more safe,” Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said at a rally in front of the state Capitol that included Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and dozens of other law enforcement officials. “It makes us less safe.”

Patrick, who has the authority in the Senate to quell most any bill he wants, said on Monday the votes are not there in the Texas Senate right now to move the legislation.

“If we have the votes to pass a permitless carry bill off the Senate floor, I will move it,” Patrick said Monday. “At this point we don’t have the votes on the floor to pass it. I plan to meet with law enforcement who oppose permitless carry and with the NRA and GOA (Gun Owners of America) who support it to see if we can find a path that a majority of senators will vote to pass.”

It’s not dissimilar from what Patrick has said about the issue in the past. During a 2017 radio interview in San Antonio, Patrick told host Trey Ware that “law enforcement does not like the idea of anyone being able to walk down the street with a gun and they don’t know if they have a permit or not.”

For Patrick, backing the police has become a major political point over the last year as protests nationwide have drawn attention to police shootings. Patrick was part of a statewide tour to “back the blue” last year by pushing back against some Democrats and their call to “defund the police.”

“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, protecting police is an American thing and a Texan thing,” Patrick said.

But that is about to be tested. Letting the so-called constitutional carry legislation go to a vote would appease some of the most vocal gun rights advocacy groups, over the safety objections of police.

The Gun Owners of America’s Texas chapter is already pushing its supporters to up the pressure on Patrick and Senators to hear the legislation.

“It would be unthinkable for the Senate to let constitutional carry die after it has passed the House by such a large margin,” that group said in a statement to its supporters. “We need you to take action. Call Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.”

Senate version still in committee

Under House Bill 1927, which passed the House on Thursday, people 21 and older would not be required to pass a training class and hold a permit to carry a handgun in public. The bill does not apply to anyone with a criminal record.

A similar bill has been filed in the Texas Senate by Sens. Drew Springer and Dawn Buckingham, both Republicans. But that legislation hasn’t received a hearing yet in a committee, typically the first stop for a bill.

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