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Texas House approves open carry without a permit for handgun owners

The Texas House passed a bill Thursday that would allow people to open carry handguns without a permit. If approved, it would make Texas the largest state in the nation to allow no-permit handgun carry.

The bill is advancing through the Texas legislature despite opposition from local police chiefs, who said it puts officers at risks and lets citizens carry guns without proper training and vetting.

The GOP-led state House passed the bill in 84-56 vote, mostly along party lines. More than 20 proposed amendments, mostly from House Democrats, failed to make it into the final legislation.

Under current Texas law, residents must obtained a permit to carry a handgun, which requires a training class, shooting class, written exam and an application fee of up to $40. 

The bill would allow for anyone 21 or older to carry a handgun — either concealed or openly in a holster — without fulfilling those steps. It also says business owners must verbally tell customers if guns aren't allowed in their businesses, rather than only posting a sign.

Restrictions would still apply to people convicted of felonies and domestic violence, and for carrying guns in certain areas, including state hospitals and at sporting events.

The bill's lead sponsor, GOP state Representative Matt Schaffer, called it "constitutional carry" legislation and argued that many people don't have the time and money to get a permit. 

Earlier this week, a group of Texas police chiefs held a news conference opposing the bill, arguing that citizens should have basic training and awareness of gun laws before being allowed to carry.

"Gun owners have a duty to ensure that their guns are handled safely and a duty to know applicable laws," Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said. "The licensing process is the best way to ensure this message is conveyed."He said the bill would also make police officers "less safe." 

The bill must next be approved by the Texas Senate before being potentially signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who said last month that he wants to make Texas a "Second Amendment sanctuary state." 

Tennessee's governor signed a similar bill last week, making it the 19th state to allow permit-less gun carry. 

These bills come as the federal government is pushing states to take tougher action on guns after a wave of mass shooting across the country this year. A high-profile mass shooting happened in Texas just last week, when a gunman killed one person and wounded five others — including a state trooper — at a cabinet manufacturing facility in Bryan.

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