Gov. Greg Abbott signed the permitless carry bill into law Thursday after extensive lobbying from conservative and gun rights advocates. From Sept. 1, Texans will no longer be required to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun.
The bill makes Texas the largest among 20 other states to adopt a “constitutional carry” law and gun advocates are hopeful that the adoption of the far-reaching bill will encourage similar conservative legislation in other states. Republican State Sen. Charles Schwertner, who sponsored the bill, described the legislation as seeking to “protect the right of law-abiding Texans to carry a handgun as they exercise their God-given right to self-defense and the defense of their families.”
Despite his initial noncommittal posture, last month the governor promised to sign the legislation and described it on Twitter as “the strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history.” Several amendments were tacked on in the Senate, including a provision that would have barred officers from questioning people based only on their possession of a handgun was struck and the upper chamber also enhanced criminal penalties for felons and family violence offenders caught carrying.
Extensive criticism has been levied at the legislation, including by religious leaders and senior law enforcement officers who have called the new legislation a dangerous retreat from gun control amid a recent surge in gun violence.
After dismissing concerns about the proclivity of guns across the state, President of the Houston Police Officers’ Union Douglas Griffith emphasized the danger posed by eliminating the training required under existing laws. “Now you are going to have a bunch of untrained individuals out there,” he said. “That makes me fearful for our community.”
Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff in Harris County, the most populous region of the state, also warned lawmakers against enacting the legislation. “Permitless carry does not make our community safer,” said Mr. Gonzalez. “Instead it increases the odds of deadly confrontation and puts the lives of first responders at even greater risk.”
The decision is also misaligned with the large majority of Texas voters who do not think permitless carry should be allowed. Democrats across the state have spoken out against the bill.
“The permitless carry bill will cause more violence and loss,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar in a statement Wednesday. “Despite overwhelming support for common-sense gun violence prevention legislation like universal background checks, Texas Republicans, led by a cowardly governor, are more interested in groveling for the gun lobby’s attention than they are in preventing gun violence and honoring victims and survivors in El Paso and across Texas.”