Starting September 1st, Texans will be able to carry handguns in public without a license after on Wednesday the controversial bill dubbed "constitutional carry" was singed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.
He later presided over a ceremonial signing on Thursday morning where the governor hailed it as the "biggest and best" gun law this session. Standing alongside National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre in San Antonio, where he signed the bill, Abbott said, "Surely there’s no state in America that’s ever done as much protecting gun rights."
As the law stands prior to the new change, Texans must pass a background check and undergo a safety course, which includes over 1.6 million licensed conceal-carry individuals in the state. The bill still keeps the formal licensing "option" in place.
But after the new law takes effect anyone 21-years old and up can carry a holstered handgun, whether openly or concealed, without a permit.
The National Rifle Association had months prior called for "Texas to join the 20 other states that have legalized this personal protection option" in a statement. Abbott had previously echoed this stance in media interviews, vowing that if HB1927 should pass the Texas state legislative bodies, he would sign it. "This is something that 20 other states have adopted and it’s time for Texas to adopt it, too," he told a local radio show in April.
Prior to approval this week the Texas Senate tacked on multiple amendments seeking to address law enforcement concerns that one alarming end result could be that the change allows easier access to weapons for criminals.
According to the Texas Tribune:
The compromise lawmakers reached behind closed doors kept intact a number of changes the Senate made to the House bill, including striking a provision that would have barred officers from questioning people based only on their possession of a handgun.
The deal also preserves a Senate amendment enhancing the criminal penalties for felons and family violence offenders caught carrying. Among other Senate changes that made it into the law was a requirement that the Texas Department of Public Safety offer a free online course on gun safety.
As expected, Texas Democrats were outraged, with US Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) leading the charge in a Wednesday statement saying, "The permitless carry bill will cause more violence and loss."
Perhaps fittingly of Texas Republicans' defiant posture, the Thursday signing ceremony was held at the Alamo.