2013 Legislative Update

Firearms law education is a program cornerstone of our friends at Texas Law Shield. At Central Texas Gun Works and Texas Law Shield, we want all gun owners to know the law and how to legally and properly carry a firearm. To help stay up to date on all firearms law changes made during the recent Texas legislative session, Texas Law Shield has written a legislative update to help educate our members on the changing law and ensure you are all well-informed gun owners.

For the printer-friendly PDF, click here.

 

CHL Process Modifications

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

Starting September 1, 2013, the process for instructing a new applicant for a concealed handgun license, as well as that for renewals, will undergo significant modifications due to recent legislative action.

 

New applicant classes (not including range time) have been reduced to a minimum of four, and a maximum of six hours. New applicants will still have to show up in person, as opposed to going online, to take this reduced class, and they can take it with whatever firearm of .32 caliber or higher, they wish while not being stuck into a firearm categorization.

 

Classes for renewals are going away completely. All those who are renewing a CHL will have to do is go online, submit an application, pay a fee, and sign an acknowledgement of the law. There is no requirement to re-qualify in a class or at the range.

 

Then there is, of course, the issue of timing. For example, if a person with a CHL that expires in December was to try to renew right now, what happens? Or, what is the result of someone that completes their paperwork to renew now but takes the renewal class September 3rd? Does the bill apply to licenses issued only after September 1, or anybody that needs to renew? This is solved by the final paragraph of HB 48. Section 7 of HB 48 states that the law applies only to applications submitted to the department on or after September 1, 2013. Therefore, the only question at that point is when the application was submitted to the department.

 

We can use this information to solve the thought experiments above. With regard to the CHL holder whose license expires in December, should they choose to renew right now, they would face the current law because their application to the DPS was submitted before September 1st, and the renewal class would still be required. In the second scenario, if the paperwork is submitted now, they will still need to take the class to renew their CHL, even if the class is scheduled to be after September 1st. However, if they have not sent their application in to the department but merely filled it out on paper, then they could be governed by the new laws. The third question is answered easily; it applies to any CHL holder, regardless of the date their license was issued, so long as the application is submitted to the department on or after September 1st. Please note, if a CHL expires without any paperwork submittal, you will have to start over as if you were a new applicant. So if your CHL expires August 31, and you wait until September 1 to submit your paperwork for a renewal, you will have to apply as a new applicant and take the 4 hour class.

 

SB 864, which changes things for new applicants, applies similarly. Applicants who submit their application to the department before September 1st must take the 10 hour minimum class. Those who apply afterwards need only the 4 hour minimum class. The only possible strangeness here is the applicant that takes the 10 hour class August 31st, but doesn't submit their paperwork until after September 1st. However, this is not as difficult a situation as it first appears; the department takes no issue with a class exceeding its maximum guidelines, and therefore the 10 hour class completion certificate should be fine for the new applicant. Accordingly if someone submits their application August 31st, no matter how long they wait, they will have to take the 10 hour minimum class.

 

 

Veterans

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 CHLs 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.

 

Finger Printing, Social Security Numbers and Categorization

Another new law, pursuant to HB 698, concerns finger printing. People in a county of 46,000 people or less, with no facility having the capability to process digital or electronic fingerprints within a 25-mile radius, will have different rules applied to them, to be established by the Texas DPS.

 

Under HB 1349, which isn't effective until January 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.

 

Hotels

HB 333 (Effective Sept. 1, 2013)

 

With the passing of HB 333, hotels will be required to tell their 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 their guests 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 that are not claimed by the owner 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.  Previously the only options available to the police were destroying the gun or keeping it for police use.

 

There are also new procedures in SB 1189 for the seizure of weapons by police officers from the mentally ill. If the officer has reason to believe and does believe the person is mentally ill, and 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.

 

The police have to follow a certain procedure in giving the receipt of the seizure, and informing the person how they can get their firearm back once they've received treatment or been released.  Of note is the fact that, after a person has been released, the law enforcement agency will conduct a background check to verify whether or not the person can still lawfully possess the 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 pass 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 who had a CHL and authorization from the school to carry to undergo special training before being allowed to carry on the school property.

 

However, there were two important bills that did pass and were signed by Governor Perry. The first is SB 1857. The legislature 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 who 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.

 

The other bill that passed, SB 1907, makes it illegal for college and university campuses to institute discipline policies against students and employees who are CHL holders that have firearms in their vehicles in the parking lots or campus 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 the school 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 kept 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 that 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 gives wide discretion to municipalities 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 private property of 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 in 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!

 

Other Laws

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 they 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.” 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, is 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.

 

Knives

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 governments from regulating switchblade or automatic knives because the Texas knife law pre-emption bill did not pass, but at least there is no longer an overall prohibition on the state level.

 

Whenever the legislature is in session, we must remain ever vigilant and observant of our rights, lest we lose them. Texas Law Shield always keeps a watchful eye out for any bills that affect your firearms rights, for better or worse, and aims to keep you updated.

 

For the printer-friendly PDF, click here.

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