Texas religious leaders call on Texas Senate to reject constitutional carry bill

Dozens of religious leaders from different faiths in Texas have signed a letter, asking lawmakers to reject several bills, including the elimination of licensing requirements to own a gun. The Texas House passed "constitutional carry" last week, but Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick says the measure may not have enough votes to pass the Senate.

Sixty-four preachers from different faiths signed a letter to lawmakers, urging them to reject several bills. In addition to permitless carry, they say lawmakers should not weaken license to carry laws and should not abolish "gun-free zones."

SB 546 would eliminate state-imposed gun-free zones, but property owners could still maintain their own requirements.

"We're the first ones to respond, not just in mass shootings, but we're the first ones to respond to every day gun violence," says Rev. Deanna Hollas, gun violence prevention ministry coordinator at Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Dallas. "The faith community is clear. It is our role to promote life. It is our role to make sure people are living abundantly. Guns get in the way of that. That's been proven over and over again. More guns do not make us safer, and the faith community, quite honestly, is tired. We are tired of all this unnecessary gun violence."

In the Texas Senate, Patrick says he does not yet have enough votes to pass the law lifting the requirement for gun permits. He says he plans to meet with law enforcement leaders who oppose the measure and the NRA "to see if we can find a path that a majority of senators will vote to pass.”

Last week, police chiefs and police associations spoke outside the Texas Capitol, urging lawmakers to reject the bill. Hollas says she was following proceedings in the House.

"It's really disturbing to see how lawmakers are ignoring the will of the people," she says. "There is no evidence more guns will make us safer. Matthew 23 kept coming to mind as I watched. Matthew 23 is where Jesus repeatedly says, 'Woe to you, you hypocrites. Woe to you.' Our lawmakers, as they put forward this bill, they said they were concerned about women. But if they were concerned about women, they would know easy access to weapons does not make women safer. They should be talking about health care. They should be talking about our power grid that has failed."

Hollas says state lawmakers should instead work with local and faith leaders to build a community.

"This is just about selling more guns, creating fear. It's not about safety, it's not about life," she says. "I just want to reiterate how heartbroken people in the faith community are that our lawmakers want to dismantle laws that are there to protect us. Violence always begets more violence."

A local newspaper-UT Tyler poll released last week showed 58% of Texans opposed permitless carry, including 58% of Republicans and 55% of gun owners.