TSRA 2024 Annual General Meeting Legislative Update

TSRA 2024 Annual General Meeting
Legislative Update
The Texas Legislature meets in Regular Session for 140 days in odd-numbered years.  Currently, we are in the legislative interim.  During this time between regular sessions, the Governor can call 30-day Special Sessions, which he has done four times in 2023.  Though members can file any legislation they like during special sessions, only items the Governor puts on his “Call” can be addressed. 
The primaries just occurred on Tuesday, March 5th, the general elections will be on the first Tuesday in November.  In Texas, there will be few truly competitive legislative general elections, so most of the action happened in the primary.
TSRA’s Political Action Committee, along with the NRA-ILA evaluates and endorses candidates in state legislative races.  This is a highly collaborative effort with NRA. These elections are vitally important to our mission. 
Our endorsements are one of the most objective in the state.  As our groups are single-issue advocacy organizations, we don’t get distracted by ancillary issues that are not relevant to the Second Amendment.  Grades and endorsements are based on voting records (for incumbents), questionnaires, statements by the candidates, websites, etc.  In contested primaries, an incumbent with a strong voting record and questionnaire score will generally get the endorsement even with opponents who are graded with the highest grade possible on the questionnaire—an “AQ”.
The primary elections this cycle were exceptional due to the chaos surrounding the House Republican Caucus and the endorsements of challengers to incumbents fueled by internal battles surrounding school vouchers and the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. 
Nine incumbent legislators lost outright.  Eight more incumbents are in runoff elections that will be held on May 28.  With the 16 members that decided to not seek reelection and the nine who lost on Tuesday, there will be a minimum of 25 new members in the House.  The State Senate will have at least two new members replacing two retirees.  Both these seats are headed to a runoff.  One is a solid Democrat seat and the other is solidly Republican.
TSRA/NRA endorsed eight of the nine incumbent candidates who lost.  Eight of the incumbents are rated “A” and one (Clardy) is rated an “A+” All of the challengers that won are rated as “AQ”.  
Of those House members in runoffs, we endorsed 6 of the 8 incumbents, all of whom were rated “A” except House Speaker Phelan who is rated “A+”. 
88th Regular Session January 10--May 29, 2023
Coming off what was arguably the most successful 2A session in Texas legislative history* (87th Legislative Session) we knew the 88th Session would naturally be more defensive in nature and focused primarily on protecting our substantial gains by turning back efforts to reverse pro-gun legislation and create new laws that attempted to further restrict law-abiding Texans’ constitutional rights.
TSRA actively reviewed and tracked 283 bills throughout the legislative session that had some impact on the Second Amendment.  This was a 25% increase in gun-related legislation that was filed during the previous session.  TSRA opposed almost half of these bills. 
The 50 most onerous bills filed included:
  • 12 bills related to Universal Background Checks or bans and restrictions on private firearms transfers.
  • 8 bills related to “Red Flag” laws and unnecessary and intrusive firearms surrender schemes.
  • 21 bills creating unconstitutional restrictions on firearms or ammunition sales to young adults.
  • 9 bills proposing magazine limits and semi-automatic firearms bans.
Though it was a mostly defensive session--TSRA/NRA successfully worked on several pro-2A bills that became law this session:
  • HB 2837 (Schaefer R-Tyler) prevents financial institutions from requiring the use of a firearms-specific merchant category codes (MCC) to distinguish purchases at a Texas firearms retailer rather than using a general merchandise or sporting goods retailer code.  Gun control advocates attempted to require credit card companies to use MCCs to gather data on and track lawful firearms purchases as a backdoor method to create and maintain a registry of gun owners, which the federal government is prohibited by law from creating.
  • HB 1760 (Hefner R-Mount Pleasant) addressed roving “gun-free” zones created when school activities take place off-campus in public building or private venues, such as the Capitol, zoos, and even fast-food restaurants.  It limits restrictions on firearms possession to actual premises owned by, and under control of a school or locations where high school, collegiate and UIL activities as described in Penal Code Section 46.03, are taking place.
  • HB 3137 (Isaac R-Wimberly), restricts municipalities or counties under the state firearms preemption law from requiring firearm owners to obtain liability insurance.
In the past, Senate State Affairs and the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committees have been the two primary committees that Second Amendment-related bills are referred to.  However, this session House Speaker Dade Phelan created the House Select Committee on Community Safety chaired by Ryan Guillen, who also chairs the Homeland Security Committee.  This committee had most of the gun related bills shifted to it.
  • Senate State Affairs:  Chairman Brian Hughes (R—Mineola). 
  • House Select Committee on Community Safety:  Chairman Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City).
Other committees that also have had gun bills referred to them include House Criminal Jurisprudence; House Culture, Recreation and Tourism; House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence; House State Affairs; Senate Criminal Justice and Senate Jurisprudence.
Interim Committee Charges
Soon, we expect interim committee charges to be released by the House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor.  These charges are essentially a list of items to be studied by the committees who will then release reports detailing their findings and suggesting legislation to address the issues during the 89th Legislative Session.
These hearings generally take place during the Spring through the Fall preceding the next legislative session.
Needless to say, we will be watching closely to see if any charges related to Second Amendment issues are issued to our relevant committees.
Other Activities
Texas is a large and complex state.  The business of government doesn’t stop when the Legislature is not in session.  Some of our other activities include (but aren’t limited to) interactions with the Office of the Governor; legislative leadership, members and staff; Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety. 
We also will actively monitor and participate in all legislative Special Sessions; constantly monitor social media and news outlets and review and develop legislation and strategies for the regular legislative session.
*          87th Session Passed bills:
  • HB 1927 (Schaeffer/Schwertner)—Constitutional Carry
  • HB 1500 (Hefner/Creighton)—Establishes firearms-related industry/retail are essential businesses that cannot be prohibited by state or local officials from operating during a declared disaster or emergency.
  • HB 918 (Leman/Hughes)—Lowers the age requirement for and LTC to 18 for, and extends this self-defense option to, a person who has obtained an active family violence protective order or magistrates order of emergency protection. (Essentially superceded by the Pittman decision).
  • HB 1387 (Harris/Birdwell)—Foster parents may store firearms in their homes if the guns are stored in a locked location only accessible to them.  Repealed ridiculous dual storage and trigger lock restrictions.
  • HB 1407 (Schaeffer/Hughes)—Allows an LTC holder to have a handgun in their vehicle that is visible and in a holster, and not on a person.  Ensures practical carry in a vehicle.
  • SB 19 (Schwerner/Creighton)—discourages banks and other financial service providers from discriminating against members of the firearm industry.  Prohibits those entities that do so from contracting with government entities in Texas.  I.e. BOA shutting down a gun store, they can’t issue bonds for the state.
  • SB 20 (Campbell/Hefner)—Allows hotel guest to store lawfully possessed firearms and ammo in their rooms, and to transport them directly from their vehicles to their rooms.  Hotels may require them to be concealed or in a case.
  • SB 550 (Springer/Metcalf)-- Eliminates the requirement that an open carry handgun be in a belt or shoulder holster.  Allows carrier to choose holster type.
    • Others—HB 2757 expands non-profit Raffles; HB 4336 prohibits easements from restricting the holder or guest from possessing or carrying firearms.