Texas Legislative Wrap-Up: More Great News for Gun Owners

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Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker visited with TSRA Legislative Director Alice Tripp at the Texas House of Representatives Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee hearings in Austin earlier this year. Edwin testified on a number of pending bills.

The 85th Texas Legislature adjourned on May 29, and in the session, legislators passed several bills that enhance gun-owners’ rights in the state. Following are descriptions of several bills that have passed the Legislature and have either been signed or are awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature:

H.B. 1819

Purpose: Creates Texas Penal Code § 46.05(a)(7) which states that firearm silencers that are curios or relics, or are possessed, manufactured, transported, repaired, or sold in compliance with federal law, are not prohibited weapons. This means that if the federal “Hearing Protection Act of 2017” becomes law and removes firearm silencers from ATF regulation under the NFA, they will no longer be prohibited weapons under TPC §46.05.

Amends Texas Penal Code § 46.05 to state that prohibited weapons does not include those weapons that are not subject to the ATF registration requirement. This means that since the ATF has chosen not to regulate the Mossberg Shockwave as a short-barreled shotgun under the NFA that it is not prohibited under TPC § 46.05(a)(1)(C).

Signed by the Gov.: May 26, 2017

Effective: September 1, 2017

S.B. 16

Purpose: Amends Texas Government Code § 411.174(a) to reduce the fee for an LTC application to $40. Amends TGC § 411.185(a) to reduce the renewal fee for an LTC to $40.

Amends TGC § 411.190(c) to reduce the application fee for LTC instructors to $40.

Amends TGC § 411.194(a) to reduce the fee for a duplicate or modified LTC (currently $25) by half and reduces the renewal fee to $5, for an indigent person.

Amends TGC § 411.190(c) to reduce the application fee for LTC instructors to $40.

Amends TGC § 411.195(a) to reduce the fee for a duplicate or modified LTC (currently $25) by half and reduces the renewal fee to $5, for a person who is 60 or over.

Amends TGC § 411.1991(d) to eliminate LTC fees for peace officers.

Signed by Gov.: May 26, 2017

Effective: September 1, 2017

H.B. 435

Purpose: Creates Texas Penal Code § 46.01(18) which is a Volunteer Emergency Service Personnel (VESP), that includes volunteer firefighters, volunteer emergency medical services, or any individual who provides services for the general public during emergency situations. It specifically does not include peace officers or reserve LEOs, who are performing law enforcement duties.

Creates an exception to TPC §§ 30.06 & 30.07 for VESPs who are LTC holders.

Creates an exception to the prohibited places listed in TPC § 46.035(b)&(c) for VESPs who are LTC holders and engaged in providing emergency services. Creates a new exemption under TPC § 46.15 to the prohibited places under TPC §§ 46.02 & 46.03, for VESPs who are LTC holders and engaged in providing emergency services.

Creates an exemption to the prohibited places under TPC §§ 46.02, 46.03, & 46.035 (except correctional facilities) for LTC holders who are the attorney general, assistant attorney generals, United States Attorney, assistant United States Attorney.

Creates an exemption to Texas Government Code § 411.209 for 10 specifically listed state hospitals that can exclude handguns carried by LTC holders via a posted sign.   Also, creates a civil fine for an LTC holder who violates the sign, in addition to the existing criminal penalty.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

S.B. 263

Purpose: Amends Texas Government Code § 411.188(a) to remove the minimum caliber requirement for the firearm used to qualify during the range portion for an LTC.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

H.B. 913

Purpose: Creates Texas Penal Code § 46.01(18) (the numbering conflicts with H.B. 435) which defines Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to be a completed and operational bomb. It specifically does not include the unassembled components or an exploding target used for firearms practice, i.e. Tannerite.

Creates TPC § 46.05(7) (numbering conflicts with H.B. 1819) to add IEDs to the list of prohibited weapons.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

S.B. 1566

Purpose: Creates Texas Education Code § 37.0815 to prohibit school districts and charter schools from having employment rules that prohibit school employees who are LTC holders from keeping handguns, firearms, or ammunition, that is not in plain view, in a private, locked motor vehicle in a school-owned parking area. This does not allow a school employee to exhibit a firearm to cause alarm or personal injury or to violate TPC §§ 46.03 or 46.035.  It is important to remember that this law applies only to school employees who are LTC holders. School employees who are not LTC holders continue to be subject to school employment rules under Texas Labor Code §52.062(a)(2)(B)&(C).

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

H.B. 1935

Purpose: Amends Texas Penal Code § 46.01(6) to remove the term “Illegal” knife and create the term “Location restricted” knife. Knives will no longer be classified as throwing knife, dagger, dirk, stiletto, poniard, bowie knife, sword, or spear. The only requirement to be a “Location restricted” knife is having a blade over 5 ½ inches long, from the guard to the tip.

Creates TPC § 46.02(a-4), which prohibits a person under the age of 18 from carrying a location restricted knife except on their own property, their motor vehicle or watercraft, or under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian.

Creates TPC § 46.03(a-1) which adds the following prohibited places for location restricted knives to the list of weapons prohibited places already in TPC § 46.03. These places include 51% businesses, high school, collegiate, professional sporting events or interscholastic events, correctional facilities, hospitals, nursing facilities, mental hospitals, amusement parks, and places of religious worship. The offense for taking a location restricted knife into the premises of a school or educational institution is a 3rd-degree felony. The offense for taking a location restricted knife into any other prohibited place is a Class C misdemeanor. There is no requirement to give notice of the location restricted knife prohibition, i.e. no 30.06 or 30.07 criminal trespass notice, or 51% business establishment notice needed.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

H.B. 3784

Purpose: Amends Texas Government Code § 411.188 to allow for online LTC classroom qualification courses. The range portion of the LTC qualification must be done in person by a qualified instructor who will also provide an additional 1-2 hours of range instruction prior to shooting.

Amends TGC § 411.190 to create qualifications for online instruction certification.

Creates TGC §411.1993 to allow for licensed county jailers to qualify for an LTC without additional training.

Creates TGC § 411.1994 to allow for state correctional officers to qualify for an LTC without additional training.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

H.B. 867

Purpose: Creates Texas Education Code § 37.0813, that extends the school marshal program to private schools.

Amends TEC § 37.0811 to allow for one school marshal per 200 students instead of 400 students or allows for one school marshal per building on a school campus.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

S.B. 2065

Purpose: Created Texas Occupations Code § 1702.333, to allow places of religious worship to have volunteer security teams without being licensed by the TxDPS as a security guard or security company. In order to qualify under this provision, the members need to be unpaid volunteers and not wear a uniform or badge that says “Security” or gives the appearance of being a police officer, personal protection officer, or security officer. There is no restriction on members of the security team who are LTC holders from carrying their handguns.

This is still awaiting action by Gov. Abbott. If signed, it will become effective on September 1, 2017.

—Compiled and written by Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker, a lawyer with the Walker & Byington firm in Houston.

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