After a tumultuous fight in the legislature, open carry may soon finally be legal in Texas. The state House and Senate approved HB 910 in a stunning victory for open carry advocates on Friday, sending the bill to Governor Greg Abbott, who had promised to sign the bill if it came to his desk.
“Open Carry just passed in both the Texas House & Senate. Next destination: My Pen,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.
If signed into law, the bill would overturn a ban on open carry that has lasted for more than 125 years. Texas was one of the first states to ban the open carry of handguns, yet it will be one of the last to allow it. Currently only six states ban the open carry of firearms—including California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina. To gun rights activists in the Lone Star State, legalization of open carry is long overdue.
“Let’s boldly go where everyone has gone before us,” Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), the bill’s sponsor, told The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think it is anything bold or new, but it may take some people a little bit to get used to it.”
Debate over the bill in the legislature largely went along party lines. Democrats such as Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) argued that open carry had no real purpose due to the popularity of concealed carry, and would only incite fear. The bill was also opposed by powerful gun control groups and a collection of metro police chiefs, who disagreed with a provision that barred officers from questioning people openly carrying guns. In the end, the provision was dropped and the bill passed 102-43 in the House and 20-11 in the Senate, despite the threat of a filibuster from opposing lawmakers.
“This session has been an alarming show of politicking that caters to a gun lobby agenda,” Sandy Chasse, coordinator with the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told San Jose Mercury News. “As a gun-owning Texas mom, this is not the Texas I want for my family or community.”
It is the Texas that many open carry activists have advocated for. Despite the compromises made to the bill, many activists still view its passage as a momentous victory for gun rights in the state, which is well-known for its gun culture. Texas has one of the largest populations of concealed handgun license owners in the country—currently around 850,000—and competes for the top spot with states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.