AUSTIN (Apr. 21, 2015) – Last week, a Texas state House committee held a hearing for a bill that would ban the state from providing bulk lists of concealed carry permit holders to the federal government, something that agencies have requested elsewhere, and could potentially be used to harass or persecute lawful gun owners.
Introduced by State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), House Bill 2359 (HB2359) would protect the Texas Concealed Handgun Licensing registry from being harvested by the federal government in bulk, making state-level compliance with any request of this nature a felony offense. The bill reads, in part:
The department, in response to a bulk request made by a federal criminal justice agency, may not provide to the agency a list of individuals licensed to carry a concealed handgun…
An offense under this subsection is a state jail felony.
HB2359 received its first hearing in the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee on Apr. 14. Rep. Bohac testified in favor of his bill.
“Currently, [the Department of Public Safety] must disclose to federal and state criminal justice agencies whether a named individual or individuals named in a specified list whether or not they’re a CHL license holder,” Rep. Bohac said during the committee hearing. “Items open to disclosure by DPS are the person’s name, date of birth, gender, race, zip code, telephone number and e-mail address.”
“In its current form, HB2359 prohibits DPS from releasing bulk lists of unnamed individuals who are CHL holders to a federal criminal justice agency and for the first time creates an offense if we release these lists,” Rep. Bohac said.
According to Rep. Bohac, amendments are currently being worked on to firm the bill and make sure that there are no loopholes for the feds to exploit. Concerns by committee members included criminal penalties applying to low-level government employees tasked with enforcing these provisions. The bill’s author mentioned that this would be considered as well during the amendments process.
“We just believe that CHL holders [are] private to the state of Texas and should remain the property of the state and our local law enforcement agencies,” Rep. Bohac said.
One concerned citizen showed up to testify in favor of HB2359. There was no opposition in attendance, and seemingly no opposition from the committee members as well. The bill was left pending for the time being until amendments are finalized.
HB2359 is an important measure because the federal government has already shown its willingness to collect this information from state agencies. It was revealed in 2013 that the Missouri Highway Patrol released a confidential list of concealed pistol licensees to the federal government at their request. It is unknown if this type of information sharing is going on in other states, but HB2359 would put an end to any such collusion taking place in the Lone Star State.
The bill will be heard again in the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee before it can be sent to the state House for a full vote.