By Brad Brooks
LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) – The governor of Texas has signed into law a bill allowing people to carry concealed handguns without any permit, joining 20 other states that already have such measures.
Governor Greg Abbott touted the law as part of a package that he said turns Texas into a “Second Amendment sanctuary” where any new federal gun restrictions will not be enforced.
Abbott was holding a ceremonial signing of the bill on Thursday, but had already signed the bill into law on Wednesday, according to the Texas legislature website, as first reported by the Texas Tribune.
The law goes into effect on Sept. 1.
The Texas law is the latest in a back-and-forth battle at the state level between those who support stricter gun laws and those who want to strip away most barriers to owning a gun.
Gun violence killed 38,707 people in the United States in 2019, the most recent year for complete statistics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – far higher than any other developed nation.
Representative Matt Schaefer, a Republican who authored the bill, which gun rights advocates call a “constitutional carry” law, said in a written statement that the law defends the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms, and restores all law-abiding Texans’ rights to carry guns.
Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, the largest group representing officers in the state, said the law will be a tremendous burden for police on the street.
“We were opposed to this bill from the very get-go,” Lawrence said.
He noted that while the new law adds to the list of people who are banned from carrying a weapon, it will now be the responsibility of beat cops to figure out whether a person is barred from carrying a weapon.
“We’ve shifted the burden to the cops on the street, and made it a lot more difficult for them,” Lawrence said.
He added that police much preferred an administrative vetting process that determines who can carry a gun, “rather than a cop having to figure that out at 3 a.m. on the south side of Lubbock.”
Previously, if a person in Texas wanted to carry a concealed weapon, they had to go through a background check and undergo four to six hours of training on gun laws, conflict de-escalation and live-fire training, before obtaining the license.
Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group that works for tougher gun regulations across the United States, sharply criticized the bill, saying it would add to the number of gun deaths in Texas. The group, which spends millions of dollars on political races across the country, vowed to target politicians in Texas who supported the measure.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; editing by Jonathan Oatis)