Texas set to allow unlicensed handgun carry despite outcry

The move would also allow people to carry handguns without background checks or training.

A photo of a handgun on the hip of a supporter of open carry gun laws at a rally in Austin
A photo of a handgun on the hip of a supporter of open carry gun laws at a rally in Austin

Texas is poised to remove one of its last major gun restrictions after state legislators approved allowing people to carry handguns without a licence or the background check and training that go with it.

The Republican-dominated legislature approved the measure on Monday, sending it to governor Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it despite the objections of law enforcement groups who say it would endanger the public and police.

Gun control groups also oppose the measure, noting the state’s recent history of mass shootings, including those at an El Paso Walmart, a church in Sutherland Springs, and a high school outside Houston.

Texas already has some of the loosest gun laws in the country and has more than 1.6 million handgun license holders.

Supporters of the bill say it would allow Texans to better defend themselves in public while abolishing unnecessary impediments to the constitutional right to bear arms.

Once signed into law, Texas will join nearly two dozen other states that allow some form of unregulated carry of a handgun, and will by far be the most populous.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) was among those supporting the measure, and a spokesman called it the “most significant” gun-rights measure in the state’s history.

“A right requiring you to pay a tax or obtain a government permission slip is not a right at all,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

Texas already allows rifles to be carried in public without a licence. The measure sent to Abbott would allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a handgun as long as they do not have felony criminal convictions or some other legal prohibition in their background.

Texas governor Greg Abbott (Eric Gay/AP)

But without the state background check, law enforcement groups worry there would be no way to weed them out in advance.

The bill does include stiffer penalties for felons caught illegally carrying guns.

The bill would not prevent businesses from banning guns on their property, and federal background checks for some gun purchases would remain in place. Texas has no state requirements for background checks on private guns sales.

Texas has allowed people to carry handguns since 1995, and has been reducing the cost and training requirements for acquiring a licence for the last decade.

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