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Texas Passes Bill Allowing Gun Owners Fleeing Disasters To Carry Their Firearms With Them

By  Ashe Schow

One’s Second Amendment rights should not end when one is fleeing a disaster.

That’s the basis for a recently passed bill in Texas, which would relax some of the state’s gun laws regarding when a person can carry a handgun in the event of a natural disaster. Under current law, it is unlawful for a person to carry a weapon off of their own property or on route to or from their vehicle or “watercraft.” Firearm owners also could not carry a handgun in their vehicle unless properly licensed and in a holster, on “certain prohibited premises” (schools, polling places, courts, or racetracks), or at hospitals, amusement parks, or places of worship.

These seem like pretty standard laws, but the bill passed by the legislature, HB 1177, would apply exceptions to current gun laws for those evacuating during a disaster. This is not a free-for-all bill. The exceptions are limited. From the bill’s summary:

The offense of unlawfully carrying a weapon under Penal Code sec. 46.02 would not apply to a person carrying a handgun if:

· the person carried the handgun while evacuating from an area subject to a mandatory evacuation order during a declared state of disaster or local state of disaster or while reentering that area following the person’s evacuation;

· not more than 168 hours had elapsed since the evacuation was ordered or since it was issued and the governor had extended the period during which a person could carry a handgun; and

· the person was not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.

The offenses under Penal Code sec. 46.02 and certain provisions of secs. 46.03 and 46.035 would not apply to a person who carried a handgun if:

· the person carried the handgun on an otherwise prohibited premises that was operating as an emergency shelter during a declared state of disaster or local state of disaster;

· the person was authorized to carry the handgun by the owner, controller, or operator of the premises; and

· the person was not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.

The summary also includes what supporters and opponents of the bill say about it. Supporters contend the bill would “provide clarity for lawful gun owners evacuating during a state of disaster.” CNN reported statements made by State Sen. Charles Brandon Creighton, who sponsored the bill. Creighton said on the Senate floor that the bill doesn’t require shelters to admit people carrying handguns. Other supporters of the bill said it was necessary for them to take their firearms with them when evacuating to protect their possessions from looters.

Opponents, however, say it would create additional burdens on the operators of shelters because there are not clear ways for them to notify evacuees of their firearm policies during such a stressful time.

As CNN reported, the bill went back and forth between the State House and Senate but ultimately passed both chambers in its original form. The law will take effect on September 1. As a note, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on August 17, 2017.

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  3. Texas
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