The Texas state legislature authorized a bill that would terminate a 140-year old law banning citizens from carrying firearms in public. The legislation now moves on to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. He is expected to sign the bill into law.
Abbott has publicly announced his support for the bill, using social media to convey his message. Shortly after the bill passed the state Assembly on May 29, the governor tweeted “Next destination: My pen.”
Despite the politics of Texas favoring fewer restrictions on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, the legislation was still compromised during the debate process.
The National Rifle Association and Open Carry Texas, a pro-gun rights group, publicly battled after members of Open Carry Texas led a rally where supporters openly carried long guns with them, a practice that is legal in the state. NRA officials did not agree with that kind of statement.
“To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates,” the NRA said in a statement released after the controversial rally.
While Texas law has allowed for concealed handguns for the last two decades, the new rules will make it the 45th state to allow open-carry handguns for all citizens, CBS News reported.
The state House of Representatives voted 102 to 43 in approval, while the state Senate approved the measure 20 to 11. In the Texas Senate, the bill was voted along party lines, with all Democrats voting against the legislation.
Similar to the current concealed handgun laws in the state, the law requires any resident who wishes to openly carry a handgun to apply for a license. Those who apply will have to be at least 21 years old, pass a background check and take classes on proper firearm use and education.
According to Fox News, around 850,000 Texans already have permits to carry concealed weapons on them at all times. While some critics are concerned about the safety of Texans everywhere, proponents of the new law believe the criticism is not valid.
“The notion that Texans who open carry their guns will start shooting each other is absurd. Just because those people can now carry openly won’t change that, any more than the 44 other states that already allow open carry,” John Lott, president of Crime Research Prevention Center, said in response to critics.
Agreeing with Lott is a study conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety which, in 2013, showed only .03 percent of crimes were carried out by citizens with a license for a concealed handgun.
With the governor’s signature expected soon, only four states — Illinois, New York, South Carolina and Florida — have outright bans on open carry handguns.
Photo Credit: Bill Bradford, Flickr Creative Commons