Eric Gay / AP
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas is poised to remove one of the last major gun restrictions after lawmakers approved permission for people to carry guns without a license, as well as background checks and training that goes for it.
The Republican-dominated legislature approved the measure Monday, referring it to Gov. Greg Abbott, who said he would sign it despite objections from law enforcement groups saying it would jeopardize the public and police.
Arms control groups also oppose the measure, noting the recent history of mass shootings by the state, including those in El Paso Walmart, a church in Sutherland Springs and a high school outside Houston.
Texas already has some of the loudest gun laws in the country and has more than 1.6 million gun license holders.
Proponents of the law say it would allow Texans to better defend themselves in public, while removing unnecessary obstacles to the constitutional right to bear arms. Once the law is signed, Texas will be joined by nearly twenty other states that allow some form of unregulated gun carrying and will be by far the most populous.
The National Rifle Association was among those supporting the measure, and a spokesman called it “the most significant” measure to protect weapons in the country’s history.
“The right you are required to pay taxes 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 public smoking of rifles without a permit. A measure addressed to Abbott would allow anyone aged 21 or over to carry a gun as long as they do not have convictions for violence or some other legal prohibition in their background. But there would be no way to exterminate them without checking the situation in the state that is currently in the process of licensing.
The bill will not prevent companies from banning guns on their assets, and federal past checks for some arms purchases will remain in place. Texas has no state requirements to verify past sales of private weapons.
Texas has been allowing people to carry guns since 1995, and has reduced the cost and conditions of training to obtain a license for the past decade.
The Texas move to further relax the gun law brought together El Paso lawmakers, including Democratic MP Joe Moody, who gave an emotional address on the House floor Sunday night stating that he was in rooms with the governor and family members who were looking for loved ones after Walmart shooting 2019.
The 2021 Legislative Session is the first time state lawmakers have met in a session following an attack in which 23 people were killed.
There were promises, Moody recalled, that the state would “take the security of weapons seriously” after the shooting. Authorities said the shooter targeted Mexicans in the border town.
“When the door was closed, I heard a lot of promises,” Moody said. “I haven’t heard them since.”
An Associated Press report by Paul J. Weber made his contribution.