The following was sent out by Texas Law Shield. Don’t leave home without it!
The great State of Texas has survived yet another legislative session. While not all of the dust has settled (as of the time of this writing, the second special session has yet to close), the large majority of bills has either passed or failed by this point. Some bills passed while other bills died in committee; open carry, campus carry, and penalties for local or state government employees wrongfully using TPC §30.06 signs did not make it through the legislature. With that said the assault weapons laws, including gun and magazine bans, also did not make it out of committee. If so many bills didn’t make it through, what did find its way to the Governor’s desk? A significant amount of legislation regarding the CHL process, hotels, the seizure and disposition of weapons, CHL and school premises, changes to failure to conceal law, restoration of a ward’s firearms rights, air guns (curiously enough), and even switchblade knives received some attention.
HB 48 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), HB 485 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), HB 698 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), SB 864 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), HB 1349 (Effective Jan. 1, 2014), HB 3142 (Effective Immediately), HB 3370 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), SB 164 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013)
CHL Process Overhaul for First Time Applicants and Renewals
The process to apply for a concealed handgun license, as well as to renew, has undergone significant modifications.
For new applicants, SB 864 has changed how the class is taken. The length of the classroom instruction is reduced to a minimum of 4 hours, not including range time. New applicants will still have to take the class in person.
Under HB 48, to renew a CHL all you have to do is submit a renewal application on the internet, pay a fee, and sign an acknowledgement of an “information form” that describes state law regarding when a CHL holder can carry a concealed handgun and the use of deadly force. There is no longer a requirement to participate in a class, either online or in person, for renewals. There is also no longer a requirement of providing photos for renewals.
There could have been some perceived conflict between these two bills, as SB 864 states that there are renewal classes but they can be taken online, while HB 48 states that there is no longer a requirement for renewal classes at all. Based on how the two bills are written and the order in which each passed, it appears that HB 48 would be controlling with regards to renewals. In other words, there is probably no longer a CHL renewal class requirement. Texas Representative Flynn’s office confirmed that this is how the two bills are intended to reconcile; Flynn was the author of HB 48, and the sponsor of SB 864.
HB 485 reduced the CHL fees required for veterans, members of the military, and peace officers, and HB 3370 provides for a process for obtaining CHL’s by former reserve law enforcement officers. There has also been a change to the CHL card itself; when SB 164 becomes effective, veterans will receive a special designation on their CHL reflecting their status as a veteran.
Class Length, Finger Printing, and Social Security Numbers
Under SB 864, the classroom instruction length is reduced to 4-6 hours from the previous 10-15 hour length. Another new law, pursuant to HB 698, concerns finger printing. People in a county of 46,000 people or less, with no facility with the capability to process digital or electronic fingerprints in a 25-mile radius, will have different rules applied to them, to be established by the Texas DPS.
Under 1349, which isn’t effective until January of 2014, Texas DPS shall not request, and applicants are not required to provide, social security numbers for the purpose of issuing a CHL. Further, Texas DPS may not request or require social security numbers during the renewal process.
Effective immediately, HB 3142 does away with the “category” of firearm carrying. In other words, taking the test with a revolver or semi-automatic no longer matters, and whether you are licensed for semi-automatics or revolvers no longer dictates the type of firearm a CHL holder can carry.
HB 333 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013)
With the passing of HB 333, hotels will be required to tell its guests up-front of any restrictive firearms policies prior to booking the rooms. Furthermore, they must receive an affirmative acknowledgement of their firearm policy. In other words, they couldn’t hide a TPC §30.06 notice in the second to last page of their impossible to find policy document without telling you about it.
Seizure and Disposition of Weapons
HB 1421 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), SB 1189 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013)
For better or for worse, one of the first bills to be signed by the governor was the bill regarding the auctioning of seized weapons, HB 1421. This bill allows law enforcement agencies to sell seized weapons at public auctions. Only licensed firearms dealers are allowed to purchase these seized firearms at such an auction, and the proceeds of the sale would go directly to the law enforcement agency. This is a new law that will require close scrutiny; while the bill could be enforced in a just and fair manner, the temptation and motivation for abuse by agencies with low budgets is high.
There are also new procedures for the seizure of weapons by police officers from the mentally ill, described by SB 1189. If the officer has reason to believe and does believe that the person is mentally ill, and that because of the mental illness there is a substantial risk of harm unless the person is immediately restrained, then the officer may seize any firearm found in possession of that person.
There is a very involved system regarding the receipt of the seizure, how to reclaim the firearm if you’ve been released or have received inpatient mental health care. Of note is the fact that, after you’ve been said to be released, the law enforcement agency will conduct background checks to verify that you may still lawfully possess your firearm.
Firearms and Schools
SB 1907 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), SB 1857 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013)
A few bills related to educational institutions and carrying did not survive the legislative session. Campus carry did not pass in time in the regular session, and though it had been proposed in the first special session it again did not pass. The governor vetoed SB 17, which would have required employees that had a CHL and authorization from the school to carry to undergo special training before being allowed to carry on the school property. SB 17 could have added additional mandatory strain to the already difficult process of being able to carry on school premises (currently with written authorization), not to mention school budgets.
Rather than opting for the mandatory class, the legislature has created an optional training program for employees of school districts, who are also CHL holders, to receive specific and appropriate training for their environment. SB 1857 lets the DPS establish a process to enable qualified handgun instructors to obtain an additional certification to instruct the school safety course, and outlines the requirements for a school safety course. This course can be provided by qualified instructors to CHL holders that are employees of a school district or an open-enrollment charter school. Note that this doesn’t affect the fact that CHL holders need written authorization to carry in educational institution buildings.
SB 1907 makes it illegal for campuses to institute discipline policies against CHL holders having firearms in their vehicles in the parking lots or streets. Keep in mind, both before and after this bill, it was legal for a CHL holder to leave his firearm in the vehicle on a college campus; however, some campuses adopted rules that would allow them to take disciplinary action against students who brought firearms into these legal areas. Now, they have received explicit instructions to no longer try to side step the law by having stringent and restrictive policies on firearms in the vehicles of CHL holders. With all of this said, the statute does not provide a penalty for college campuses that violate the law, nor does it prescribe a remedy for those affected by campuses who ignore SB 1907.
Air Gun Law
SB 1400 (Effective Immediately)
The legislature has added a host of new provisions regarding air guns, which they define as any gun that discharges a pellet, BB, or paintball by means of compressed air, gas propellant, or spring.
The law states that municipalities may no longer adopt regulations concerning the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of air guns. However, it grants the ability to regulate the discharge of air guns, the use of air guns in the case of riots or other insurrections, and the carrying of an air gun by a minor on public property, or private property without consent of the property owner. Counties may adopt regulations regarding the discharge of air guns on property 10 acres or less in the unincorporated area of the county in a subdivision.
Interestingly, a municipality may not regulate the carrying of an air gun by a CHL holder at public parks, public meetings of the municipality, county, or other governmental body, political rallies, or non-firearms related school, college, or professional athletic events. So, for frequent paintball players, it may be worthwhile to get a CHL!
HB 2407 (Effective Jan. 1, 2014), SB 299 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013), HB 1862 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013)
Restoration of a Ward’s Rights
A ward in Texas is someone who is determined by the courts to be incapacitated, and will therefore require a guardian. A result of becoming a ward is that you lose the ability to purchase firearms. If a ward’s capacity was completely restored, that is to say they are no longer incapacitated and a court has made or is making such a finding, HB 2407 establishes some guidelines regarding the re-establishment of their rights to purchase a firearm.
Failure to Conceal
The failure to conceal law has received some attention during the legislative session as well. The current phrase of “intentional failure to conceal” will be changed to “intentional display of the handgun” in plain view of another person in a public place based on SB 299. While it may seem a victory at first, the statute is unclear as to how this substantively changes the current law by failing to define what constitutes a “display” or “plain view of another person.” Only time and the courts will show us how this change will affect our lives. On a positive note, SB 299 also reconciles the “display” of a handgun with the use of force statutes by stating that the justification for use of force, not just deadly force, would be a defense to this crime. The statute formerly limited justifiable failure to conceal to only those situations where the use of deadly force was justified.
Finally, though unrelated to firearms, knife aficionados will be pleased to hear that switchblades will no longer be a prohibited weapon under HB 1862. They will now be subject to the same regulations for all knives. Note that this law won’t prohibit local government from regulating switchblade or automatic knives, because the Texas knife law pre-emption bill did not pass, but at least there is no longer overall prohibition on the state level.
Even though we’ve made it through both the regular session and first special session, Governor Rick Perry has called a second special session. Whenever the legislature is in session, we must remain ever vigilant and observant of our rights, lest we lose them. Texas Law Shield will keep a watchful eye out for any other bills that affect your firearms rights, for better or worse, and keep you updated.