In Texas, where gun laws are among the loosest in the United States, there’s a line the state has long resisted: making it legal to carry a handgun in public without a license, background check or training.
The governors did not defend it. Police persuaded Republican leaders to avoid him. And two years ago, when a frustrated gun rights activist showed up outside the President’s home at Texas House, the resulting outcry quickly stifled him again.
But in the space of just a few weeks, Texas has suddenly moved closer and closer to becoming the largest state in the country with unregulated or “unlicensed” porterage – a move that is alarming for the app. of the law and which causes some Republicans to fix a vote they prefer to avoid. . It also discouraged lawmakers in El Paso, which is still recovering from one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history, when a gunman from Walmart killed 23 people in 2019.
“What is going on out there that we need to overhaul a working system?” asked Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, which opposes the bill. “We agree with law-abiding citizens who have guns. But there are still people who shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns in public.”
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On Thursday, a special committee hastily established by the state Senate was tasked with advancing the measure – an unusual move as it comes just weeks after Republicans said they did not have the votes . And a week after dodging a question about the bill, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said this week he would sign it.
The measure would eliminate the licensing requirement and state background checks and training that go with it. That would not prevent companies from banning guns on their property, and federal background checks for certain gun purchases would remain in place. Supporters of the bill say it would allow Texans to better defend themselves in public while removing unnecessary barriers to the constitutional right to carry a firearm.
Emblematic of the governor’s pressure from some Republicans, State Party Chairman Allen West, a former Florida congressman who took over as the Texas GOP leader in 2020, berated Abbott and the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick as “squishies” for initial hesitation on the gun issue.
“You’d think they’d be proud to whip up the Legislature and do it,” West said.
Texas has over 1.6 million handgun license holders under a law first passed in 1995. The state does not need a license to carry handguns. shoulder in public, and the elimination of the handgun license has long been a goal of die-hard gun activists. After being mostly ignored for years, they grabbed a change of leadership at Texas House to move forward.
The new Speaker of the House, Republican Dade Phelan, sponsored an unlicensed postponement bill several years ago. With him now in charge, the issue crossed the Republican-dominated chamber this month.
“We cannot allow another session to come and go where we can only lip service to the Second Amendment while failing to fully restore the rights granted by God to our citizens,” Senator Charles said Thursday. Schwertner. “We simply cannot pass up this opportunity. This issue is far too important.”
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Gyl Switzer, executive director of the Texas Gun Sense gun control group, which opposes the bill, said she worried when the issue got a full vote in the House. Republican lawmakers who have avoided voting in the past likely did not want to be lenient on gun issues before the 2022 election, she said.
“It’s literally a life and death bill,” Switzer said. “I would like to believe that people could renounce an oath to the right wing of their party.”
Texas would join around 20 states allowing unlicensed handguns to be carried, but it would be by far the largest in terms of population. Earlier this year, Tennessee waived its handgun licensing requirement and several others are considering doing so.
“It’s in the air,” Switzer said. “There’s even national pressure. I’m sure Texas (Republicans) don’t want to appear weak.”
The change would still only allow people aged 21 or older to carry handguns. And those convicted of violent crimes or any other legal prohibitions would still be prohibited from wearing them. But there would be no way to eliminate them without a background check.
Law enforcement groups warn that removing the licensing requirement will make the streets more dangerous. Determine who can legally wear and who can’t be left with a patroller, Lawrence said.
“I fear for our law enforcement,” said Senator Eddie Lucio, a Democrat. “I would hate to see more guns out there that cause more injury or death.”
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A handful of Democrats back the bill, but others are frustrated the state won’t tighten its gun restrictions in light of its mass shootings in recent years, including at the El Paso Walmart, a high school of the Houston area and a church in Sutherland Springs.
When the bill was passed in the House, State Representative Joe Moody, whose district includes El Paso, said lawmakers had “ done nothing at all to keep the solemn promises made to families in El Paso and in parts of the state at the graves of their loved ones. “
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