Is this a legislative win or not for Governor Greg Abbott? It’s tough to tell from his level of enthusiasm over the constitutional-carry bill that passed last month in Texas. It sat around for quite a while before Abbott signed the bill in private late yesterday, although he plans to celebrate it among other legislative victories today:
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Wednesday to allow holstered handguns to be carried in Texas without a permit, delivering a victory for gun advocates and the conservative wing of the party.
Beginning Sept. 1, House Bill 1927 will allow anyone 21 years old or older who can legally possess a firearm in Texas to carry a handgun in public without a permit. Current state law allows residents 21 or older to carry a handgun only after completing the required training and criminal background check to obtain a license to carry.
Abbott will hold a bill signing ceremony at the Alamo in San Antonio on Thursday for the permitless carry measure and several other gun bills. He’s expected to be joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan, Republican lawmakers and National Rifle Association representatives.
The legislature sent the bill to Abbott on May 24th, nearly four weeks ago. That’s a long time for a bill to sit on a governor’s desk, especially one that his base has cheered and cajoled into existence. Abbott never explicitly called for a constitutional-carry bill, and there have been questions about his enthusiasm for pursuing it in this session.
That lack of enthusiasm might spring from a lack of broad support for this policy change on carry laws. A solid majority of Texas voters oppose it in recent polling, while only 56% of Texas Republicans support it:
A solid majority of Texas voters don’t think adults should be allowed to carry handguns in public places without permits or licenses, though the idea is popular with a 56% majority of Republicans. Overall, 59% oppose unlicensed carry — a number driven up by the 85% of Democrats who oppose it. On the Republican side, the gun questions revealed a gender gap. Among Republican men, 70% said they support unlicensed carry; 49% of Republican women oppose that position.
More people carrying guns would make the United States safer, according to 34% of Texas voters, while 39% said that would make the country less safe. Another 16% said more armed Texans would have “no impact on safety.”
Almost half of Texas voters (46%) would make gun laws stricter, while 30% would leave them alone and 20% would loosen them. The partisan lines were sharp: 85% of Democrats would make gun laws stricter, while 53% of Republicans would leave them as they are and another 29% would loosen them. That GOP gender gap appeared again here: 20% of Republican women would make gun laws more strict, while only 10% of GOP men would; 19% of Republican women would loosen those laws, while 41% of GOP men would.
This bill could have used more time to sell to voters, in other words. The concept itself has been tested in other states; Texas will be the 21st state to adopt “constitutional carry.” No other state has seen any ill effects from allowing law-abiding citizens to carry legally owned firearms without a permit. However, none of the other states have the population size or density of Texas, either. If nothing else, it seems as though the Texas GOP might have rushed this through when a campaign to build more grassroots support might have been a better strategy.
That may explain Abbott’s lack of enthusiasm for the bill, but his signature is still the important point. Now that it’s law, Abbott will put the best face on it today and do some of the sales work that probably should have preceded its passage.