Texas is poised to remove one of its last major gun restrictions after lawmakers approved allowing people to carry handguns without a license, and the background check and training that go with it.
Opposition to the bill are blaming the Republican-dominated Legislature that approved the measure Monday, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it despite the objections of law enforcement groups who say it would endanger the public and police. Other gun control groups oppose, noting the state’s recent history of mass shootings.
Although Texas has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country, supporters of the bill say it would allow Texans to better defend themselves in public while abolishing unnecessary impediments to the constitutional right to bear arms. The state already allows rifles to be carried in public without a license.
The measure sent to Abbott would allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a handgun as long as they don’t have violent crime convictions or some other legal prohibition in their background. Texas has allowed people to carry handguns since 1995, and has been reducing the cost and training requirements for getting a license for the last decade.
The bill would not prevent businesses from banning guns on their property, and federal background checks for some gun purchases would remain in place. Texas has no state restrictions on private gun sales.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was among those supporting the measure, and a spokesman called it the “most significant” gun-rights measure in the state’s history.
“A right requiring you to pay a tax or obtain a government permission slip is not a right at all,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.