The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday, April 15, enabling adults aged 21 and above to carry handguns without a permit or license.
The bill passed 87-58, with all 83 Republicans but three in the House voting in favor of the legislation, reports the Western Journal.
As customary for the speaker, Dade Phelan reported: “present but not voting.” Rep. Angie Chen Button of Richardson was also present but did not vote, and Rep. Morgan Meyer of Dallas was the only GOP member to vote against the bill.
This bill would allow Texan people to carry a gun without a permit unless they are prohibited from possessing a weapon by the state or federal government.
Before that, gun owners in Texas were required to obtain a permit to openly carry a handgun, fingerprints needed to be submitted, preparation must be completed, a written exam must be passed, and a shooting proficiency examination must be passed, according to the Texas Tribune.
State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), the bill’s author, and other Republicans have dubbed it “constitutional carry” and “common-sense legislation.” He said: “Law-abiding citizens need the ability to protect themselves and their families.”
Texas Gun Sense Ed Scruggs countered the bill, calling it dangerous. He claimed that it is a lot easier for a felon or someone who should not have a gun to get one and take it into a public place.
Democrats also criticized the decision, citing the state’s recent mass shootings in Bryan, Midland-Odessa, and El Paso. They claimed that this is the exact opposite of the form of gun regulation that Texas needs.
“What in the world is wrong with a license. We have a license to drive a car; we have a license to do so many things. A license is not an infringement of your first amendment rights. It’s just common sense. And it’s really disappointing that the Republicans have taken a strong party-line stance today to keep to really make it less safe in our state,” Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Dallas) said.
Police associations from across Texas gathered at the Capitol earlier this week to declare their opposition to the bill and ask Texan lawmakers to vote no. They said that, without a license requirement, it is almost impossible for an officer responding to an incident with a gun to determine if it is lawfully owned.
Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody tried to pass an amendment to repeal the bill. He said no action had been taken to prevent mass shootings after a gunman killed 23 people in El Paso in August 2019.
In a statement on Friday, Mike Collier – a Democrat who has said he plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2022—said that “Instead of focusing on fixing our grid or working to restore our economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Republicans are laser-focused on making it easier for criminals to access dangerous weapons despite the mass shootings that we’ve seen time and time again across this country.”
Five Democrats backed the bill, including Reps. Tracy King of Batesville, Harold Dutton of Houston, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass, Richard Pea Raymond of Laredo, and Leo Pacheco of San Antonio.
Texas Gun Owners of America said that Arizona passed similar legislation nearly a decade ago.
“We have 20 other states across the country who have already passed some version of constitutional carry, one of the largest and most populous would be Arizona — they’ve had it for years. And the data shows that not only did their state licenses increase, but so did the amount of people getting training on it,” Felisha Bull, deputy director of TGOA, said Thursday.