Texans will soon be able to carry a handgun without a permit – or the background check and training that a permit requires. So-called constitutional carry passed a final hurdle in the Texas Legislature night, and Gov. Greg Abbott has promised he’ll sign the bill.
The state’s Republican-dominated Legislature is cheering the bill’s passage as a great success – a follow-through on a core part of the Texas GOP platform, which calls for opposition to any and all restrictions on legal access to guns.
Charlotte Eisenhower is the vice chair of the Bexar County Republican Party.
“We believe that this increases the amount of people who are law-abiding citizens that are carrying firearms,” Eisenhower told Texas Public Radio.
The permitless-carry legislation did, however, cause a rift between police associations and the GOP – usual allies.
Law enforcement groups largely came out in opposition, saying it’ll make police officers’ jobs more dangerous. But, Eisnenhower says, the measure will allow people to defend themselves when officers take too long to respond.
“Of course, we respect what law enforcement says, but it’s a difference of opinion,” she said.
The portrait of a “law abiding citizen” fending off violent criminals is central to the GOP’s support for the measure.
But as Johns Hopkins’ Daniel Webster points out, everyone’s law-abiding … until they aren’t.
“I think that’s the most important thing to underscore that. And then in many cases, yes, truly, generally safe, law-abiding people are getting more so-called rights to carry guns around,” he said.
Webster directs the Center For Gun Violence Prevention and Policy.
“But the same is true for a subset of individuals who, frankly, aren’t so law-abiding and safe. And we should be troubled by that,” he said.
He says gun violence tends to go up in states that make it easier to get guns.
“In those states that people who get arrested and incarcerated for committing violent crimes with firearms, most of them before they committed those crimes were actually legal gun owners,” he said.
Support for the permitless-carry legislation was predictably polarized, with a University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll from April showing 56% of Republican respondents in favor compared to 85% of Democrat respondents against.
And then there are Texans with more complicated views, like Benjamin Daniel, an anarchist.
“I’m not sure that there’s a real clear-cut answer for someone [with] maybe more radical, left-leaning politics,” he said.
Daniel’s is a father, and a longtime resident of San Antonio.
“I’m for it, in a sense, in that it allows access – maybe minimally – to marginalized communities,” he said.
He says he’s for making it easier for Black, brown and LGBT+ people to get guns to protect themselves.
“But I’m against it because we don’t live in a society that has really grappled with the deeply racist, deeply anti-trans, anti-queer environments of this country, as well as this state,” he said.
Most of Texas’s Democratic state lawmakers oppose permitless carry, and fought against the bill’s passage.
State Sen. Cesar Blanco, an El Paso Democrat, told lawmakers Monday that they were focusing on the wrong things.
“This is the first session since the shootings at Walmart, since the shootings in Odessa, and we heard from our constituents that they want solutions,” Blanco said.
The Legislature did pass a separate bill in response to those mass shootings, and Abbott just signed it into law. Texas will soon have a statewide alert system for active shooters.