Texas lawmakers have supported removing one of the state’s few big firearms laws, allowing individuals to carry firearms without any license as well as background check and practice that comes with it.
The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature on Monday, May 24, and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he would sign it over opposition from law enforcement advocates who fear it will put the public and police at risk.
Gun safety advocates are still opposed to the bill, citing the state’s recent history of mass shootings, including those at a Walmart in El Paso, a church in Sutherland Springs, and a high school outside of Houston.
Texas currently boasts some of the loosest gun restrictions in the world, with over 1.6 million people owning a handgun license.
The bill’s supporters argue that it would empower Texans to properly protect themselves in public while removing needless barriers to their constitutional right to own firearms. Texas will join nearly two dozen other states that allow any kind of unrestricted carry of a handgun until the bill is signed into law, and it will be by far the most populous.
The National Rifle Association was one of the bill’s supporters, and a spokesperson called it the state’s “most significant” gun-rights measure.
“A right requiring you to pay a tax or obtain a government permission slip is not a right at all,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said.
In Texas, rifles can now be carried in public without acquiring any license. The bill sent to Abbott will authorize someone 21 or older to carry a firearm as long as they don’t have any prior violent crime records or other legal restrictions. However, without the state background check that is now part of the certification process, there will be no way to root them out.
The bill would not forbid retailers from removing weapons on their premises, and federal background checks for any gun sales would continue to be required. Background checks on private gun purchases are not needed in Texas.
Since 1995, Texas has licensed individuals to carry weapons, and for the last decade, the cost and qualification standards for obtaining a license have been reduced.
El Paso politicians, including Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody, were enraged by Texas’ decision to relax gun restrictions any further. Moody gave an emotional speech on the House floor on Sunday night, recounting being in rooms with the governor and family members looking for loved ones during the Walmart shooting at El Paso, Texas in 2019.
The 2021 legislative session is the first time state legislators have convened since the massacre, which claimed the lives of 23 people. Following the shooting, the state decided to “take gun safety seriously,” according to Moody.