(AP) — Texas lawmakers have approved allowing people
to carry handguns without a license, as well as the background check and training that comes with it.
The measure was approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature on Monday and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott
, who has said he will sign it despite objections from law enforcement groups who say it would endanger the public and officers.
advocates also oppose the bill, citing the state's recent history of mass shootings
, such as those at an El Paso Walmart, a church in Sutherland Springs, and a high school outside Houston
, though the assailants in each of those attacks primarily used assault-style rifles, not handguns.
Texas already has some of the most lax gun laws in the country, with over 1.6 million people holding handgun licenses.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will allow Texans
to better defend themselves in public while eliminating unnecessary impediments to the constitutional right to bear
arms. If the bill is signed into law, Texas will join nearly two dozen other states that allow some form of unregulated carry of a handgun, and it will be by far the most populous.
Texas already allows rifles to be carried in public without a license, and the bill sent to Abbott would allow anyone 21 or older to carry a handgun in public as long as they don't have any violent crime
convictions or other legal prohibitions in their background, but there would be no way to weed them out without the state background check that is currently part of the licensing process.
The bill would not preclude businesses from prohibiting guns on their property, and federal background checks for some gun purchases would continue to be required, despite the fact that Texas has no state restrictions on private gun sales.
Texas has allowed people to carry handguns since 1995, and for the last decade has reduced the cost and training requirements for obtaining a license.