AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is poised to remove one of its last gun restrictions after lawmakers approved allowing people to carry handguns without a license, and the background check and training that go with it.
The Republican-dominated Legislature approved the measure Monday, sending it to Gov. 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, though each of those attacks, the assailants primarily used assault-style rifles, not handguns.
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 by far the most populous.
Texas already allows rifles to be carried in public without a license. The measure sent to Abbott would allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a handgun as long as they don’t have violent crime convictions or some other legal prohibition in their background. But there would be no way to weed them out without the state background check currently in the licensing process.
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 restrictions on private gun sales.
Texas has allowed people to carry handguns since 1995, and has been reducing the cost and training requirements for getting a license for the last decade.