Texas is about to remove one of its last major restrictions on guns, despite widespread objections, after lawmakers passed a bill that would allow people to carry guns without a license, and the background check and the accompanying training.
The Republican-dominated state legislature approved the measure Monday and sent it to Governor Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it despite objections.
Law enforcement groups oppose the move, saying it would endanger the public and the police. Gun control groups also oppose the move, pointing to the recent history of mass shootings in the state, including at an El Paso Walmart, a church in Sutherland Springs and a high school outside of Houston.
Texas already has some of the most flexible gun laws in the country and has more than 1.6 million firearm licensees.
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.
Once enacted into law, Texas will join nearly two dozen other states that allow some form of unregulated carrying of a firearm, and will be by far the most populous.
The National Rifle Association was among those who supported the measure, with a spokesperson calling it the “most important” gun rights measure in state history.
“A right that requires you to pay a tax or obtain a government permit is not a right at all,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
Texas already allows rifles to be carried in public without a license. The measure sent to Abbott would allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun as long as they do not have a criminal record for serious crimes or some other legal prohibition.
But without the state background check, law enforcement groups worry there is no way to remove them in advance. The bill includes stiffer penalties for criminals caught illegally carrying weapons.
The bill would not prevent companies from banning guns on their property, and federal background checks would be maintained for some gun purchases. Texas does not have state requirements for background checks on private gun sales.
Texas has allowed people to carry firearms since 1995 and has been reducing the cost and training requirements to obtain a license for the past decade.
Texas’ move to further loosen gun laws angered El Paso lawmakers, including Democratic State Representative Joe Moody, who delivered an emotional speech on the floor of the house Sunday night that recounted being in rooms with the governor and family members looking for loved ones after the Walmart. filming in 2019.
The 2021 legislative session is the first time state lawmakers have met in session since the attack that killed 23 people.
Moody recalled that there were promises that the state would “take firearm safety seriously” after the shooting. Authorities have said the attacker targeted Mexicans in the border city.
“When the doors closed, I heard a lot of promises,” Moody said. “I haven’t heard them since.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism