Texas lawmakers approve bill to let people carry handguns without a license, background check

Texas lawmakers on Monday approved a bill that will allow people to carry handguns without a license, a state background check or safety training.

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The measure, which passed the Texas Senate on Monday, will now be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature. Abbott has said he will sign the bill into law.

The legislation will end the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry a handgun. Current law requires those who want to carry a handgun to be fingerprinted, undergo four hours of gun safety training and pass a shooting proficiency test as well as a written exam.

Currently, more than 1.6 million Texans have a handgun license. There is no license requirement for a person to carry a rifle in Texas.

The House approved the bill late Sunday night in an 82-62 vote. The Senate followed suit on Monday, passing the bill with a 17-13 vote.

“This is a simple restoration of Texans’ constitutional right under the Second Amendment, a right of the people to keep and bear arms,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said on the floor Monday. “I think it is a bill that is the strongest bill I’ve seen in my legislative career regarding the rights of our Second Amendment.”

A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed a majority of Texans do not support unlicensed carry, with 59% of those polled saying they oppose the measure. Results were split along political party lines with 85% of Democrats opposing the bill and 56% of Republicans polled supporting it.

Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, released its own poll results showing that 71% of Texas gun owners surveyed supported keeping universal background checks for gun purchases.

“Universal background checks are bipartisan and overwhelmingly popular and supported by the majority of Texas gun owners,” said Peter Ambler, Giffords’ executive director.

Texas has seen several mass shootings in the last three years, including one at an El Paso Walmart where 23 people were killed, one at a church in Sutherland Springs where 27 people died, and one at a high school outside Houston that took 10 lives.

The National Rifle Association was among those supporting the measure, The Associated Press reported. A spokesman for the NRA called the legislation the “most significant” gun-rights measure in the state’s history.

“A right requiring you to pay a tax or obtain a government permission slip is not a right at all,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

When the bill is signed into law, Texas will join 20 states that allow some form of unrestricted carrying of a handgun.