Bill allowing Texans to carry guns during natural disasters goes to Gov. Abbott’s desk

[sharenow]

Hurricane Katrina taught us many things, like how the media tailors its coverage of natural disasters based on political implications. But it also taught us that there will be times when residents cannot count on law enforcement and other government agencies to be there when needed.

A scenario that has now been addressed to some extent by the Texas Senate, which passed a bill Sunday that would allow residents there who can legally own a firearm to be able to carry the weapon either open or concealed up to seven days after the state declares a natural disaster.

House Bill 1177 passed by a narrow vote of 16-15 and now heads to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Three Republican lawmakers voted against the bill, including Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston.

A former judge, Huffman said the legislation, which allows those complying with an evacuation order to take their guns with them, would create more problems than it solves.

“It’s really, really poor public policy that is not well thought out,” Huffman said. “It is not solving a problem. It is creating a problem.”

Legal gun owners can open carry long guns like an AR-15 under current law, but are required to get a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed. The process includes “performing a shooting test, passing a background check and paying a fee,” the paper noted.

The issue came up after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in 2017, prompting the request from gun owners. Gun control groups like Moms Demand Action opposed the legislation, while the NRA supported it.

Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton told the Texas Tribune earlier this month that those who comply with orders to evacuate are at risk under current law, which says they must leave their handguns at home.

“Currently it’s illegal to carry handguns without a license to carry,” Creighton said. “This puts those in disaster areas in a challenging position if they choose to stay in the disaster area or leave for safety.”

However, if they do not have a license to carry,” he continued, “they may be putting themselves at risk by leaving their homes without personal firearm protection.”

Every state has its own laws regarding natural disasters, but it appears that Florida may be the only other state that allows concealed carry without a permit during a state of declared mandatory evacuation.

The bill, SB 290, was signed into law in 2015 by the Republican governor, Rick Scott, who is now in the U.S. Senate, according to GunBelts.com.

“As Hurricane Season approaches it’s critical that our rights are protected during natural disasters,” Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes said in a statement at the time. “With the signing of SB 290, all lawful gun owners will be permitted to carry a concealed weapon if they are complying with a mandatory evacuation during a state of emergency. I’m proud to have sponsored this bipartisan bill ensuring that we have the right to protect our families during these sometimes chaotic times.”

As for the Texas bill, a social media user summed it up well: “After every sensible Pro -2A gun law the antis come out crying about how there will be blood running down the streets. This is about keeping the guns from getting stolen by looters (Dems) because they had to be left behind.”

And, right on cue…

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Tom Tillison

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