The Texas House on Thursday gave initial approval to a bill that would allow Texans to carry handguns without a permit or training.
After hours of debate, House Bill 1927, led by Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler.), passed 84–56 largely along party lines, in a blow to Democrats who have long railed against loosening gun laws after the 2019 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart.
Texas has more than 1.6 million licensed handgun owners. But scrapping that required permit has been a long-sought goal of conservative activists in the Lone Star State. If approved, Texas would become the largest of some 20 states that already allow handguns to be carried in public without a permit.
“It’s time to restore faith in law-abiding Texans,” Schaefer said on the House floor. “This bill should be called common-sense carry.”
The Republican lawmaker argued that obtaining a permit is both time-consuming and costly—roughly between $100 and $150 per handgun license. Applicants must also go through criminal history and background checks.
Democrats pushing against the bill have been fighting for enhanced gun safety measures since the El Paso mass shooting that left 23 people dead.
“Even knowing the political realities, I was hopeful,” said Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody, whose district is in El Paso. “But now here we are, the first legislative session back since then, and it’s another date that’s going to be burned into my head.”
The measure has also drawn opposition from Texas police chiefs, as well as some firearm instructors who run licensing courses, who critics say have a financial incentive to oppose the change. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has publicly opposed President Joe Biden’s newly announced executive actions on gun control, saying those proposals are no more than a “show” that doesn’t actually address crimes involving guns.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Abbott rejected the idea that the president could use executive orders to limit the Second Amendment.
“I think that there is no acceptable way that a president by executive order can infringe upon Second Amendment rights or alter Second Amendment rights,” the Republican governor said. “If the president wanted to do something more than show—if the president really wanted to do something substantively, what he really could do by executive order is to eliminate the backlog of complaints that have already been filed about gun crimes that have taken place.”
Abbott went on to say that Americans need their guns for self-defense now more than ever, citing the border crisis being taken advantage of by Mexican drug cartels, the “Defund the Police” movement, and bail policies that allow “very dangerous criminals” to be released back onto the streets.
Abbott has also endorsed a proposed bill to turn Texas into a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State.” The House Bill 2622, filed by Republican state Rep. Justin Holland, would prohibit state and local government agencies from enforcing or providing assistance to federal agencies on any new federal laws or rules regarding firearms, ammunition, and accessories.
GQ Pan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.