On Tuesday, the Texas Senate voted 20-10 in a final vote to pass Senate Bill 17, which would finally overturn the state’s 140-year-old ban on open carry. However, the bill is not without opposition, even by some gun owners. As written, the bill will only allow concealed handgun license holders to practice open carry, whereas gun owners in many other states can carry guns openly without any kind of permit. Some gun rights advocates instead supported legislation that would grant constitutional carry—which allowed gun owners to open carry without a license—but those bills have yet to receive committee hearings. Senate Bill 17 is now headed to the state House. According to KHOU, Governor Greg Abbott has said that he will sign the open-carry bill if it comes across his desk.
“I think what we’re talking about here are responsible citizens who are trained who have gone through a background check and we will expect them to act responsibly,” said state Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), who supported the bill.
Texas is one of just six states where open carry is illegal, along with Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina, and California. Despite The Lone Star State’s long reputation as a gun-friendly place, it seems that open carry is still a contentious issue.
“It’s disturbing to see our lawmakers bowing to gun lobby interests and extremists instead of listening to the majority of their constituents. We urge our Texas House of Representatives to oppose these dangerous bills and truly represent Texas as they have been sworn into office to do,” said Angela Turner, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America.
The organization also criticized Senate Bill 11, which would allow students, faculty, and visitors to public universities to carry concealed weapons.
On the opposite side, some gun rights advocates voiced their disapproval of licensed open carry, taking to social media to call the bill a “sell out” over constitutional carry.
“A permit/license is just the government letting us have a right back for a price,” wrote one commentor on the Facebook of Open Carry Texas.
“I don’t need a license for a right. It’s not a privilege,” wrote another.
Other Second Amendment activists support the legislation, calling it a step in the right direction. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also praised the bill for what he said was the closest Texas has ever gotten to overturning its ban on open carry.
“In the history of the Texas Senate, this is the first time an open carry bill has made it out of committee and onto the Senate floor. I am very proud of the fact that today, we made Texas history,” he said in a statement. “We’ve worked tirelessly on the issues that are most important to Texans. I applaud the good work our senators have put forth on making sure our Second Amendment Rights are protected, never ignored and properly enforced.”
KVUE-TV reports that there are nearly 850,000 concealed handgun license holders in Texas.