Standing Up for Constitutional Carry
Yesterday, the Texas Senate considered Senate Bill 17, and today the Texas Senate voted in favor or Open Carry. I supported this bill because it will advance our Second Amendment Rights. But I believe that we must do more to move Texas to forefront of protecting Second Amendment rights. Here is my statement from the Senate floor on March 16, 2015:
Thank you Mr. President, thank you members, and thank you to my esteemed colleague and Sponsor of SB 17, Senator Craig Estes, for allowing me this opportunity to speak. You have consistently been a staunch defender of our constitutional rights. You are a true patriot and a true protector of the 2nd Amendment.
While Senator Estes and I do agree that we must advance 2nd Amendment rights in Texas, we do differ in our preferred approach, and the extent to which we would restore to Texans their God-given liberty to protect and defend themselves and their families. I humbly and respectfully ask for a moment to discuss this this bill, and it's similarities and differences to the Constitutional Carry legislation I've been promoting.
Colleagues, unlike the bill before us today, Constitutional Carry would allow law-abiding Texans to carry a pistol without a license, openly or concealed. It would not change the laws of who can own a gun, how you buy a gun, and where you can carry it. In fact, under Constitutional Carry, it does not change the CHL process, which would remain an option that Texans could choose for reciprocity purposes.
Constitutional Carry would restore Texas to its rightful place as a national leader on 2nd Amendment rights. It would put in place a system wherein law-abiding Texans could carry a handgun either openly or concealed without having to obtain a permit or license beforehand. Constitutional Carry would preserve current restrictions against serious criminals possessing handguns, and would continue to preclude carrying in certain establishments including bars, sporting events, and courtrooms. Business owners would retain discretion over whether or not to allow possession within their stores.
Today, and under the bill before us, a law-abiding Texan who wishes to carry a handgun on his person outside his home or vehicle has to pay a $140 fee, and spend at least four hours in classes. Senate Bill 17 retains those impositions, and only adds a small pittance of liberty: the permitting process is essentially a government-imposed burden that discourages handgun possession. Does a working, law abiding single mom who lives in a dangerous neighborhood have the time and resources to jump through government hoops? Why should she have to, when we know that her right to carry and defend herself is fundamental and constitutional? Texas should honor in practice what most of us already accept in principle: the right to carry firearms and defend our life and liberty is natural and God-given, and does not need government permission to be fully exercised.
Some might have concerns about violence and crime increasing under Constitutional Carry. We heard the same things in 1995, when the Texas Legislature became one of the last in the country to institute a concealed carry law. Of course, those warnings were false then - crime rates have plummeted since - and are false now. Seven other states, like Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Vermont, Wyoming and almost all of Idaho and Montana, have Constitutional Carry systems. They are not reminiscent of the "Wild West" of opponent's nightmares, and actually safer than the seven situated states. Indeed, Vermont, and Wyoming is consistently rated as one of the safest places in the United States. So let me recite some facts. Texas today has permit open or concealed carry of all shotguns and rifles. So law abiding Texans are free to carry with long arms without a permit. Why are we so scared of pistols? Currently 32 state have nonpermitted open carry of handguns. I repeat, 32 states allow open carry of pistols with no permits. Texas is one of only five states that doesn't allow permitted open carry. We have aligned with state like Illinois, California, and Massachusetts. Today Constitutional Carry is currently advancing in state legislatures of New Hampshire and West Virginia, but not in Texas.
We don't want Texas to be as good as the many other open carry states. We must exceed them by far. That's what Constitutional Carry will do for Texas.
Again, Constitutional Carry is about creating a legal environment that takes the 2nd Amendment and our God-given, natural rights to self-defense seriously. As legislators, we are called upon to protect the liberties of the people we represent. When it comes to questions of fundamental liberties, I believe it is important that we not play small ball, but act boldly. And I think Texans agree. People in this state are ready and are demanding a restoration of our right to defend ourselves.
I am speaking now on behalf of my district, and the thousands of Texans who reached out to our offices about protecting our constitutional rights that were bestowed to us by God and secured in the Constitution by our founding fathers. As I mentioned before, these rights are God-given. And no man, government, or piece of paper should come between Texans and our right to protect our families and ourselves. We would never tolerate paying a surcharge for obtaining a license to exercise our 1st Amendment rights; nor should Texans have to tolerate the same for the 2nd Amendment. We must continue to foster liberty for all Texans. Texas has been a shining light compared to the rest of the nation, but Government's goal should be to lift the burdens that interfere with the Constitutional Freedoms that are bestowed to us. We should fight to protect each and every individual liberty for all Texans.
Mr. President, members of this esteemed body. I thank you for allowing me this time. This body has always been open to discussion and debate. I appreciate the President of the Senate’s and every member's dedication, and service to the constituents of Texas, and for letting my constituent's voices to be heard. Our Founding Fathers with divine inspiration went to great lengths to design a government whose primary purpose is to protect your God-given liberty. The fundamental right to protect and defend yourself and your family is enshrined in our constitution. We should never have to ask permission from the Government to exercise this right. Constitutional Carry empowers law abiding Texans to take responsibility for the security of themselves and their families. Disappointingly we are not considering Constitutional Carry legislation today. As I yield the floor, I want you to know that I will vote for Senate Bill 17. But I will do so with a very heavy heart, as this bill does very little to advance our 2nd Amendment Rights and represents a missed opportunity to truly restore liberty for law-abiding Texans. Thank you.