Thanks to a new law approved by the state legislature on Monday, Texans will soon be allowed to carry firearms without a permit, background check, or special training.
The bill – which awaits the promised signature of Republican Governor Greg Abbot – was strongly opposed by law enforcement agencies. In the past, Texans had to submit a fingerprint, undergo a background check, take a training course, and pass a shooting proficiency test before they were issued a carry permit.
State officials denied 2,422 permits last year; now they say their ability to keep dangerous people from carrying guns is seriously diminished. In addition, police can no longer rely on the state’s permit database to determine if a suspect or person in distress might be carrying a gun. Once in effect, any Texan 21 years or older can carry a firearm as long as their criminal background does not explicitly prohibit them from owning one.
“Normally you make a law to fix something that’s broken,” said Ray Hunt, executive director of the Houston Police Officers’ Union. “The system that we have in place is working.”
The National Rifle Association, on the other hand, called the law “the most significant pro-Second Amendment measure in Texas history.”
According to CBS News, nearly two dozen states allow some form of unregulated carry of a handgun. Texas – set to be the most populous of the group – already has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. Abbot has pledged to turn Texas into a “Second Amendment sanctuary state” that is immune to federal gun legislation. On Monday, the Texas House approved a priority gun bill that would allow guests to bring their firearm into a hotel room.
Texas’ new law is particularly galling to lawmakers who say the state has not done enough to prevent gun violence in the wake of a 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart shooting that killed 23. From The Dallas Morning News:
In a somber speech Sunday, Rep. Joe Moody, El-Paso, recounted meeting with family members immediately after the tragedy who didn’t yet know whether their loved ones had lived or died.
“That’s the room I sat in on that day. None of you shared that experience,” he said. “You know what else I shared … the room days after that where I was promised that we would take gun safety seriously in this state.”
Some Democrats in Texas hope the new law will spur gun control advocate and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke to run for governor.
“I told him that I thought that we needed a strong candidate for governor and he certainly fit that mold, and that, in my opinion, if anybody could beat Abbott, he could beat him,” said Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa.