The Texas Senate passed a bill Wednesday afternoon that would allow the permitless carrying of guns in the state after undergoing multiple changes. The legislation will now head back to the Senate for final approval with the added amendments before being put to the governor.
The Senators passed House Bill 1927 in a party line 18-13 vote, though some Republican senators voiced hesitancy in the debate. If approved for the second time by the House and Gov. Greg Abbott, the bill would allow any Texan to carry a gun without training or a permit. The only exceptions would be people with felonies or family violence convictions. The governor has already said that he will sign the bill into law.
“I support it, and I believe it should reach my desk, and we should have ‘constitutional carry’ in Texas,” Abbott told North Texas radio host Rick Roberts last month.
Current Texas law requires that in order to receive a permit for concealed or open carry of a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years old, pass a fingerprinted background check, complete four to six hours of classroom or online training, pass a written exam, and pass a shooting safety and proficiency test.
The changes made in the Senate enhanced penalties for felons caught carrying from a 3rd to 2nd-degree felony charge. Sen. Charles Schwertner, the Republican state senator leading the charge in the upper chamber, said that the bill is “a restoration of the belief in and trust of our citizens”.
“We cannot allow another session to come and go where we pay lip service for the second amendment by failing to fully restore and protect the rights of citizens granted by the constitution.”
Religious leaders, law enforcement officers and Democrats have spoken out in opposition, citing recent mass shootings in the state and the nation as a whole. Polling in the states suggests a majority of Texans do not support unlicensed carry, with 59% of those polled in a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll saying they oppose the policy.