Houston, TX – Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has blasted proposed legislation that would allow “permitless carry” for Texas citizens during a natural disaster.
The bill passed through the Texas State Senate on Sunday night, and is now headed to Texas Governor Greg Abbott for his signature to make it a law, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The measure would allow people who don’t have handgun licenses to carry their weapons on themselves for a week after a natural disaster occurs, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Under Texas law, citizens who legally own long guns like an AR-15 do not need a permit to carry them, but Texans wishing to carry handguns open or concealed must get a “license to carry,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
Applicants must take a course, perform a shooting test, pass a background check, and pay a fee in order to obtain a “license to carry.”
Republican Texas State Representative Dade Phelan said he sponsored the measure so that gun owners don’t have to abandon their weapons in their home when they evacuate for a storm or flood.
“I don’t want someone to feel like they have to leave their firearms back in an unsecured home for a week or longer, and we all know how looting occurs in storms,” Phelan explained when he introduced the bill. “Entire neighborhoods are empty and these people can just go shopping, and one of the things they’re looking for is firearms.”
Initially, the Senate sponsor, Republican State Senator Brandon Creighton, proposed limiting the permitless carry period after disasters to only two days, but that was changed back to a full week when a conference committee of state representatives and senators met to hash out the details and develop a compromise, the Dallas Morning News reported.
But gun-control advocates said the legislation would make emergency situations even more dangerous, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“It’s permitless carry in an emergency and that phrase should bring fear to all of us,” Texas Gun Sense Executive Director Gyl Switzer said.
The Houston police chief was firmly on the side of the anti-gun crowd.
"We experienced one of the worst disasters in Texas history during Harvey," Chief Acevedo tweeted on Monday. "The World watched as we all came together. This bill wasn't needed then & isn't needed now. This will embolden 20,000+ gang members & will not help LE."
Convicted felons would still be prohibited from possessing firearms, and it would still be illegal for gang members to rob people.
Democratic Texas State Representative Gina Calanni strongly opposes the bill and cited potential problems in storm shelters, FOX News reported.
“The way that bill was written puts emergency shelters at risk for liabilities and having to determine who can have a gun and can’t have a gun,” Calanni said. “I think we just want to be really careful when we’re bringing guns into any situation, that we are being conscious of everyone involved.”
But Phelan said shelter operators would still have control of who brought a weapon into the shelter and how that weapon was to be stored, FOX News reported.
Texas would be following in the footsteps of other states who have similar laws.
Florida allows unlicensed handgun owners to carry their weapons during mandatory evacuations from their homes, according to FOX News.
Once the bill has been signed by the governor, the new law will go into effect on Sept. 1, during the height of hurricane season.