Texas is on the verge of allowing residents to carry firearms in public without any sort of license, a rebuff to gun-control advocates alarmed by the specter of mass shootings.
A proposal to eliminate handgun permits for anyone 21 years or older received preliminary approval in the state House of Representatives late Thursday. The vote came on the same night that a gunman killed eight people, including himself, in a FedEx Corp. warehouse in Indianapolis.
Under the bill authored by Representative Matt Schaefer, a Republican from the East Texas town of Tyler, gun owners would still need to pass a federal backround check before buying a weapon. Proponents have argued that people shouldn’t have to purchase a license to exercise the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment.
Nonprofit gun-safety group Texas Gun Sense panned the measure a “very dangerous bill” that will “endanger Texans.”
“Permitless carry would eliminate an important tool to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, gambling the safety and integrity of Texas communities and the Texas Capitol,” the Austin-based group said in a statement. “Everything is bigger in Texas – so is the risk.”
Under the state’s legislative rules, the bill requires another House vote before it heads to the Senate. Both chambers as well as the governorship are controlled by Republicans.
The measure will “repeal undue barriers to carrying a handgun – a defensive tool to save lives,” the Texas chapter of Gun Owners of America said in a statement. It will “level the playing field between everyday Texans and criminals and give us a better fighting chance of saving our own lives.”