By Megan Wehring
It will be up to the Texas Senate tomorrow morning to consider a permitless carry bill — legislation that many Hays County and state leaders deem unsafe.
“Violence is escalating,” said Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, CEO of Houston Area Women’s Center. “Women and children are dying. Our frontline advocates are exhausted and alarmed. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from reducing safe guards.”
HB 1927, introduced by District 6 Representative Matt Schaefer, would allow eligible Texans, ages 21 and older, to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a permit. The bill was passed in the Texas House of Representatives about two weeks ago and will go before the newly-formed Constitutional Issues Committee on Thursday, April 29 at 9 a.m.
In 2019, there were more than 3,000 gun deaths in Texas, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. For Hays County, the age-adjusted gun death rate that same year was 9.13 per 100,000. This was the most updated data found.
Texans are currently required to have a license to carry. They must complete several steps in order to obtain a license including a background check, training class and written exam. Some believe that these steps should still be required for safety purposes.
“The Texas Legislature is,” said Molly Bursey, volunteer at Moms Demand Action in New Braunfels/San Marcos, “shoving through legislation that would remove the basic safety and background check requirements for folks who want to carry loaded handguns in public.”
Jessica Cain, pastor at Living Word in Buda, agreed that safety should be the top priority as many places of worship are sites of mass shootings.
“While safety in worship is important, we are concerned about the wider community as well,” Cain said. “Studies show that unlicensed carry makes people less safe. More than 6,000 people who have been denied licenses or had them revoked would legally be allowed to carry firearms if this bill passes. More people carrying guns does not make communities safer, and in fact the mere presence of a weapon in a private or public space makes violence more probable.”
Domestic violence could skyrocket with permitless carry, but it could be stopped with accountability, according to Jan Langbein, CEO of Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support.
“We have to figure out a way to hold perpetrators accountable,” Langbein said. “We’ve done it with smoking. We don’t let friends drive drunk anymore. When are we going to stand up on this issue and get the onus off the victim?”
A permitless carry bill would also cause violent crime rates to increase, according to Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense.
“States that have weakened their permitting process have seen a double-digit increase in handgun homicide rates and violent crime,” Switzer said during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Texas.
Ed Gonzalez, Harris County Sheriff, said officers would have an even more dangerous job if the bill was passed.
“Permitless carry does not make our community safer,” Gonzalez explained. “Instead, it increases the odds of deadly confrontations and puts the lives of first responders at even greater risk.”
For more information about HB 1927, please visit https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=HB1927.
The Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch contacted law enforcement in Buda and Kyle but has not received a response yet.