The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted to allow most Texans to carry handguns without any sort of permit or training, sending the legislation to a conference committee with the House, which already passed a similar measure. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said last week he will sign the bill. The Senate passed permitless carry on a party-line 18-13 vote, "less than a week after it sailed out of a committee created to specifically to tackle the legislation," The Texas Tribune reports. Every Republican voted for it, but several voiced concerns about the legislation during debate.
The legislation, considered too fringe during previous legislative sessions, faced opposition from law enforcement groups, firearms instructors, and Democrats. Currently, Texans must undergo four to six hours of training, pass a written exam and shooting proficiency test, and get fingerprinted to carry a handgun.
State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, argued that gun safety is a personal responsibility. "The obligation on the part of the citizen who owns a potentially dangerous weapon to understand gun laws, to become proficient in their handling of their gun, is not absolved," he said. One Republican who showed up to vote for unlicensed carry despite injuries from a car accident collapsed on the Senate floor during debate.
Texans oppose unlicensed carry, 59 percent to 34 percent, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll from April. When asked, 46 percent of Texans would make gun laws stricter while 30 percent would leave them untouched and 20 percent would loosen them further, the poll found. Three-quarters favor requiring criminal and mental background checks before all gun sales.
"A lot of the [legislative] agenda right now seems at odds with public opinion," said James Henson, co-director of UT/Texas Tribune poll. "Guns is the best example" of Republican lawmakers chasing policies that "come from the most conservative wing of the majority party," he added. "But this is also notable on the abortion questions."