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East Texas sheriffs voice support, concern over bill allowing for permitless carry of handguns

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 6:18 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - In a 17-13 vote Monday evening, the Texas Senate approved Representative Matt Schaefer’s permitless carry bill − allowing Texans that are not banned from possessing a gun to carry without a license.

From its introduction to passage in the senate, some changes were made to the bill.

“If a person has a misdemeanor conviction within the last five years for terroristic threat, deadly conduct, assault causing bodily injury, or disorderly conduct with a firearm. That person would not be qualified to carry a handgun in public without a license,” Rep. Schaefer said.

Last month, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith testified in Austin in support of the bill.

“I think it’s a great thing that has happened. I think it should’ve happened much sooner than it has. We should’ve been towards the front of the pack instead of waiting to be 21st in the nation for that to pass in Texas,” Sheriff Smith said.

An amendment added to the bill − removing a provision that would have kept officers from questioning people based only on their possession of a handgun. Something Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson agrees with.

“We run into people with handguns in all kinds of situations and the ability to be able to ask someone what they’re doing, why they’re there about their handgun, it’s to protect the citizens,” Sheriff Dickson said.

Another concern for Dickson − the bill taking away the requirement to get gun safety training.

“We’re in a time now when they’re requiring more law enforcement officers go through more training and so forth and then we turn around and tell the public you don’t have to have any training to carry a gun, it’s a concern. Once that bullet leaves the barrel you can’t put it back in,” Sheriff Dickson said.

As part of the bill, the Texas Department of Public Safety will offer a free online course on gun safety. Sheriff Smith says his department also plans on offering free training.

“That’s how you do your due diligence to make sure that people know how to safely carry and utilize and know when and when not they can use a firearm,” Sheriff Smith said.

Sheriff Dickson worked with State Senator Robert Nichols on his concerns. He says he’s in support of the bill in its final form and is hopeful the governor will sign it.

“We want everyone to enjoy their second amendment just as I do, as my family does, but we want everyone to do it in a safe way,” Sheriff Dickson said

Governor Abbott has previously said he plans to sign the bill into law.

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