The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday gave initial approval to a "constitutional carry" bill that would allow for handguns to be carried, either openly or concealed, without a permit, the Texas Tribune reported.
The bill — which would nix current state requirements that residents obtain a license in order to carry a handgun — was approved by the House in an 84-56 vote, with nearly all of the chamber's Republicans and seven Democrats voting in favor. The legislation will now move on to the state Senate.
If passed and signed into law, House Bill 1927, would allow state residents 21 years and older to carry a handgun without a permit as long as they are "not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing the firearm."
The Tribune reported that the House's passage of the bill was preceded by some of this legislative session's most heated and intense debate.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Matt Schaefer, reportedly said the bill "should be called common-sense carry" before arguing that Texas residents should not be prevented from defending themselves and their families for the lack of time and resources it takes to obtain a firearms license.
He noted that with the legislation, residents would still be barred from carrying a handgun inside restricted places such as schools, sports venues, amusement parks, hospitals, and jails. Business and property owners are still permitted to deny access to people with handguns, as well.
During debate, Democratic Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody unsuccessfully pushed an amendment that would have effectively killed the legislation. In rejecting the measure, Moody cited the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, where 23 people were killed. There has been no action in the wake of that mass shooting, Moody said.
"After those shootings ... there were roundtable discussions and stakeholder meetings and a lot of promises — and I was hopeful, members, even knowing the political realities, I was hopeful," he recalled. "Members, I'm so tired of doing nothing ... When are we going to do something?"
The bill's prospects in the state Senate remain somewhat unclear. Despite the Senate typically being the more ideologically conservative body, similar measures have failed to advance there in the recent past.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, previously expressed some hesitation over the measure, in 2017, saying that "with all the police violence today we have in our state ... law enforcement does not like the idea of anyone being able to walk down the street with a gun and they don't know if they have a permit or not."
Twenty other states — including neighboring Oklahoma and liberal Vermont — already have similar "constitutional carry" laws on the books.