The Texas House on Tuesday gave tentative approval to a proposal that would significantly reduce the fee for a license to carry a handgun.
The 111-30 vote came after the addition of an amendment by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, that would waive the fee for peace officers to get a license to carry a gun.
The proposal, Senate Bill 16 by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would would reduce the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the annual renewal fee from $70 to $40. The fee would cover the Department of Public Safety's cost to administer the license program as well as $27 needed for county, state and federal background checks, Nichols has said.
“I think it’s important we have a license to carry because it means you have proper training in the handling of a firearm,” an author of the bill's House companion, state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said Tuesday. “The problem is we have the third-highest fee [for a license to carry] in the nation.”
Other than King, 22 members of the Texas House signed on to the bill as authors or co-authors.
Only Illinois and Arkansas now have higher fees to obtain a license to carry a handgun, Nichols said. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has granted the bill “priority” status in the Senate, paving the way for faster route through the Legislature.
The measure now needs final approval from the House before it can be sent to the governor's desk.
Passage of the bill would take Texas from one of the highest fees in the nation to one of the lowest. However, reducing the fee would cost the state roughly $12.6 million in 2018. Some House Democrats expressed concerns with that.
“That’s money that could’ve possibly been used for public education or our foster care system,” state Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, said. “I’m a little concerned we took money away from these necessary agencies and are giving a break to people want to carry a handgun.”
King, however, said the bill was necessary so Texans wouldn’t be taxed for “exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
“If we’re going to do that, let’s keep it at the cost that it costs the state,” King said.
Read related Tribune coverage:
- The upper chamber gave final passage to Senate Bill 16, which would reduce the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the annual renewal fee from $70 to $40.
- A measure approved by a Senate committee would reduce the first-time fee for a license to carry a handgun from $140 to $40 and the annual renewal fee from $70 to $40.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the bill being voted on. The legislation is Senate Bill 16.