Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
Beto O'Rourke's statistic is off in tweet about handgun licenses.
If Your Time is short
- O'Rourke's number of handgun licenses denied, revoked and suspended is off by a fiscal year
- It is accurate that you do not need a license to carry a handgun in Texas now. Most people 21 years and older can carry in most public spaces.
- However, not every one of those people ineligible for a license can carry now. HB 1927 bars some people from carrying, but not everybody who would have been ineligible for a license.
- Practically, it is difficult to enforce who cannot carry under the new law, because law enforcement can no longer ask for a license from people.
Many Texas officials were present as Gov. Greg Abbott held a May 25 news conference one day after a shooter killed two teachers and 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke rose from the audience and approached the stage.
"This is on you," O'Rourke told Abbott, his Republican opponent in the November election. "Unless you choose to do something different, this will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed, just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday."
O'Rourke, who endorsed the mandatory buyback of military-style rifles when he ran for president in 2020, has continued to criticize pro-gun policies adopted by Texas' Republican leadership.
On May 29, he tweeted, "38,000 Texans had their license to carry denied, revoked, or suspended over the last five years because law enforcement deemed them too dangerous to carry a loaded gun in public. But thanks to Greg Abbott's new law, they don't need a license to carry anymore."
Is he right that people "too dangerous to carry a loaded gun in public" no longer need a license to carry?
When we reached out for sources, O'Rourke's campaign pointed us to Texas Department of Public Safety data reports onlicense to carry applications denied, licenses revoked and licenses suspended.
PolitiFact Texas contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety multiple times about permitless carry requirements but did not receive an answer.
The campaign said the tweet was about House Bill 1927, one of many laws loosening gun restrictions that went into effect in 2021. That law allows people 21 years or older to carry a firearm without a license, except for those prohibited by federal and state law from possessing a firearm.
The Department of Public Safety has data on licenses by calendar and fiscal year. When you add up the numbers for the past five fiscal years, there were nearly 35,000 licenses denied, suspended or revoked.
In a follow-up phone call with O'Rourke's campaign, a spokesperson said the 38,000 statistic mistakenly encompasses six years, not five. For fiscal years 2016 to 2021, about 38,000 applications and licenses were denied, suspended or revoked.
So, O'Rourke's range of years was off by a year.
PolitiFact Texas reached out to law experts to look at the second aspect of his claim: people who have had their handgun license denied, revoked or suspended now do not need a license to carry a handgun.
Effective September 2021, the law no longer requires people to obtain a license to carry a concealed or holstered handgun in most public spaces in Texas. Obtaining a DPS-issued license requires applicants to pass a background check, complete a gun safety course, and meet specific eligibility requirements.
HB 1927 stipulates, "persons who are currently prohibited from possessing firearms under state and federal law will not gain the right to possess or carry a firearm under this legislation." While it is accurate that people no longer need a license to carry, this part of the law is meant to prevent someone from carrying a gun who is barred by state or federal law from possessing a gun.
Andi Turner, legislative director at the Texas State Rifle Association, pointed to this line in the law that prevents people "deemed too dangerous" from carrying a loaded handgun in public spaces.
The law also defines who is prohibited from possessing a firearm, including people convicted of a felony or of certain assault offenses. HB 1927 and firearm possession law cover some of the same base eligibility requirements.
Ari Freilich, state policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an email that he believed O'Rourke's statement is accurate because HB 1927 made some people who previously could not qualify for a handgun carry permit newly eligible to carry guns in public because of gaps in the law.
Before the permitless carry law took effect, some people could legally purchase a gun while being ineligible for a handgun carry permit, Freilich said. The Giffords Law Center gave three examples of this, documented in a 2019 report.
For example, Freilich said, this would apply to an abusive partner threatening to shoot his spouse or child, as long as he didn't actually use or exhibit a firearm when threatening them. It is generally a Class C misdemeanor to intentionally or knowingly threaten another person, including a spouse or household member, with imminent bodily injury. But state prohibitions in firearm possession applies to felony and Class A misdemeanor assault convictions.
Practically speaking, there is no longer a check on who is carrying because law enforcement can't legally require a license, Southern Methodist University law professor Eric Ruben said.
"The licensing process was a filter for weeding out who shouldn't otherwise carry handguns," Ruben said. "And if someone was caught carrying a handgun, law enforcement would be able to ask, 'Do you have a license?' If a person didn't have a license, they'd be breaking the law."
Without being able to ask for a license, Ruben said, it will be hard to differentiate between someone who's lawfully carrying a gun or not.
O'Rourke tweeted, "38,000 Texans had their license to carry denied, revoked, or suspended over the last five years because law enforcement deemed them too dangerous to carry a loaded gun in public. But thanks to Greg Abbott's new law, they don't need a license to carry anymore."
O'Rourke tweeted the wrong number. It should have either been nearly 35,000 licenses denied, revoked, and suspended within the past five years or over 38,000 within the past six years.
Though law enforcement is longer checking for licenses, the second part of O'Rourke's statement is an oversimplification. HB 1927 states, "persons who are currently prohibited from possessing firearms under state and federal law will not gain the right to possess or carry a firearm under this legislation."
So, people "too dangerous to carry a loaded gun" would be kept from having one because of state and federal possession laws. But there are some gaps in the law, and keeping a statewide requirement for licenses would have made people meet more eligibility requirements.
We rate this Mostly False.
Tweet by Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke), May 29, 2022
Emails from Gina Hinojosa, director of policy and research at Beto for Texas, May 31, 2022
Follow-up phone call with Gina Hinojosa, director of policy and research at Beto For Texas, June 3, 2022
Mallory Falk, KERA, posted on Houston Public Media, "Here Are the New Texas Gun Laws Going Into Effect on Sept. 1," Aug. 30, 2021
Texas Legislature Online, HB 1927 "Enrolled Version"
Texas Department of Public Safety, "Reports & Statistics: Licenses, Applications, and Certificate Reports": Demographic Reports for Fiscal Year 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017
Phone interview with Sandra Guerra Thompson at the University of Houston, June 2, 2022
Phone interview with Eric Ruben at Southern Methodist University, June 2, 2022
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "Licensing in Texas," updated April 7, 2021
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "Permitless Public Carry," updated Oct. 7, 2021
Emails from Ari Freilich, state policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, June 3 and June 15, 2022
Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, "Gun laws and violence in the state of Texas," August 2019
Phone interview with Andi Turner, legislative director at Texas State Rifle Association, June 7, 2022
Texas Department of Public Safety, "Training Requirements FAQ"
Email from Dr. Hae Rim (Helen) Jin at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, June 26, 2022
David Jackson, USA TODAY, "One month after Uvalde massacre, Biden signs most significant gun control bill in nearly 30 years," June 25, 2022
Texas Department of Public Safety, "Texas License to Carry a Handgun Statute & Selected Laws: Relating to the Use and Carry of a Handgun 2021-2022 Edition," Dec. 2021
Read About Our Process
Browse the Truth-O-Meter
More by Nusaiba Mizan
Beto O'Rourke's statistic is off in tweet about handgun licenses.
Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.