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Austin Interim Police Chief: Permitless Carry Bill An Attempt To ‘Fix A Problem That Doesn’t Exist’

The bill wouldn't change the gun-buying process, but gun owners would no longer need to obtain a license to carry.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr/KUT
The bill wouldn't change the gun-buying process, but gun owners would no longer need to obtain a license to carry.

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Senate debated a bill Wednesday 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.

The bill originated in the Texas House as HB 1927, written by Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer from Tyler. It’s sponsored in the Senate by Republican Sen. Charles Schwertner from Georgetown.

Austin interim Police Chief Joe Chacon said he opposes the bill in its current form. He tells Texas Standard 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,” he said. “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 buy a handgun).

Chacon says the current permit system works.

I think that we’re trying to, you know, fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.

Lawmakers and advocates of the bill argue Texans have a constitutional right to carry a handgun without a permit. Chacon said he 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 [license 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.”

Chacon 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 goes further.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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