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, a Republican, 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 held a ceremonial bill signing at The Alamo in San Antonio 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 September 1.
“You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights, but today I signed documents that instilled freedom in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said at Thursday’s bill signing event.
“Those who believe and support Second Amendment rights, we support the right of every law-abiding American to be able to have a weapon to defend themselves,” he added. Among those who joined Abbott at Thursday’s ceremony was National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre.
— NRA (@NRA) June 17, 2021
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) – much 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 US 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 3am 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 licence.
Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group that works for tougher gun regulations across the US, sharply criticised the bill, saying it would add to the number of gun deaths in Texas.
At the Governor's Mansion with other @MomsDemand volunteers to let @GovAbbott know that #AbbottFailedTexas while he is at the Alamo signing a permitless carry bill. Starting 9/1 people can carry firearms with no background checks or training. #TXLege pic.twitter.com/CYnrhFHCe7
— Marissa Votes (@mlcg_tweet) June 17, 2021
The group, which spends millions of dollars on political races across the country, pledged to target politicians in Texas who supported the measure.