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- A new Texas law allows those in the state who are legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry and transport their handguns during a disaster declaration — but only while evacuating or reentering an area after the disaster.
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in response to violence that broke out at protests across the state. The author of the handgun law and multiple attorneys said it does not apply under the current declaration.
Protests over the death of black Minnesotan George Floyd have swept the nation, with daily demonstrations in cities across the country — including in Texas.
A Facebook post circulating online urges Texans to take advantage of a recently passed state law allowing people to carry firearms during disasters.
The post claimed the law, adopted in 2019, "allows any Texan who can legally own a firearm to carry their handgun, open or concealed, for a full week after a state or natural disaster is declared."
"Arm yourselves, protect your family, loved ones and neighbors," the post reads. "Stand together, Stand your ground, protect your family and your property. If you feel threatened, You have every right to protect yourselves! Be vigilant and look out for one another, stay safe."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on May 31 in response to violence that broke out at protests in some parts of the state.
The law highlighted in the post moved through the state’s legislature as House Bill 1177 and it was authored by state Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont.
The bill does regulate firearm usage during a natural disaster, but it was passed with 2017’s Hurricane Harvey front of mind, with lawmakers arguing that the measure was necessary to give survivors of natural disasters a way to protect themselves and their property.
But does it apply to this situation? We decided to find out.
‘Evacuating from an area’
HB 1177 allows handgun license holders and other Texans who are not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm to legally carry and transport their handguns during a mandatory emergency evacuation.
It includes parameters that dictate when the law is applicable: not only must there be a state of disaster, but a person must also be "evacuating from an area following the declaration of a state of disaster" or "reentering that area following the person’s evacuation."
The post does not make mention of the circumstances that would trigger this protection and insinuates that the law applies at any time within a week of a disaster declaration.
For this reason, Lauren Lumsden, Phelan’s legislative director, said it was inaccurate.
"It does not appear that the Facebook post was a correct application of the bill, since they do not seem to be evacuating," she said.
Attorneys specializing in government law reached by PolitiFact agreed with that interpretation.
"Assuming that the Governor has declared a qualifying state of disaster, it is my opinion that the statute does not allow the unrestricted open carrying of handguns," said Texas appellate attorney and former Texas Assistant Solicitor General Ryan Clinton. "Rather, it allows handguns to be openly carried when a person is ‘evacuating from’ or ‘reentering’ an area following the declaration of a state of disaster in the area."
Clinton also noted that the law does not apply to people who are otherwise banned from having a firearm under state or federal law.
Mike Cox, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, said many members had reached out to the organization about similar claims. After consulting with attorney Richard D. Hayes, II, of Houston-based law firm Walker & Taylor, Cox said he agreed that the law does not currently apply.
"The circumstances that would allow for the unlicensed carry of a handgun after a declared disaster are fairly limited," Hayes said in a blog post and video on the matter. "It doesn’t suspend 46.02 for all purposes. It really relates to evacuating."
The Facebook post stated that HB 1177 applied to the ongoing state of disaster and allowed open carry of handguns. The post omits a major part of the law, which specifies that it only applies during particular scenarios.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Facebook post, Jaslyn Antonin, June 1, 2020
Email interview, Lauren Lumsden, legislative director for state Rep. Dad Phelan, June 5, 2020
Email interview, Texas appellate attorney and former Texas Assistant Solicitor General Ryan Clinton, June, 5, 2020
Phone interview Mike Cox, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, June 5, 2020
The Guardian, 'I’m getting shot': attacks on journalists surge in US protests, June 5, 2020
Austin American-Statesman, Austin police to stop using beanbag ammo following protest injuries, chief says, June 4, 2020
Walker & Taylor law firm blog, Carrying Without an LTC After a Declared Disaster - Texas, accessed June 5, 2020
Office of the Governor, Proclamation, May 29, 2020
Texas Legislature Online, House Bill 1177, accessed June 5, 2020
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