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Texas Legislature 2019

Texas Senate votes to allow people to carry guns without a license during disaster evacuations

After final Senate approval, the bill will head back to the House, where members will decide whether to accept the changes made in the Senate.

A sign prohibiting the carry of concealed firearms at the Coryell County Courthouse.

Texas Legislature 2019

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

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The Texas Senate approved a bill Friday that would allow handgun owners to carry their concealed firearms without a license for up to 48 hours when leaving an area due to a mandatory evacuation order.

The legislation — House Bill 1177 by Republican state Rep. Dade Phelan of Beaumont — would allow those complying with an evacuation order to take their guns with them and temporarily carry them without a license so long as they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun.

The version of the bill is slightly different from the language passed by the House last month. State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, introduced a reworked version that shortened the amount of time Texans leaving a disaster area can carry their handguns without a license and added a provision allowing the governor to extend the two-day time period, if needed.

The Texas Senate approved the measure with a 23-8 vote. It will need to formally approve the measure one more time before sending the bill to the House. If the House accepts the revised version of the bill, the measure can be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for his final signature.

“Currently it’s illegal to carry handguns without a license to carry,” Creighton said earlier this month. “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, they may be putting themselves at risk by leaving their homes without personal firearm protection.”

Some gun control advocates meanwhile, have expressed concerns with the bill.

“When we pass bills like this, it sends a message to gun owners that they need not be responsible,” said Elva Mendoza, a public health social worker. “You should secure your firearms every day of the year, not just when there’s a disaster approaching.”

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