Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a “constitutional carry” bill into law on Wednesday that will allow Texans to carry a handgun in public without a license starting on Sept. 1.
Under current law, residents must go through training, submit fingerprints, show handgun proficiency and pay a $40 application fee in order to obtain a license to carry a handgun. Now, anyone who is older than 21 and isn’t already prohibited from owning guns by state or federal law will be able to carry a firearm in public.
There are some carveouts to the permitless carry bill, as employers can prohibit employees from carrying handguns at work and private businesses can ban customers from carrying weapons on their property.
And while there will no longer be required training to carry handguns, the Texas Department of Public Safety will provide a free gun safety course online.
Texas joins about 20 other states that have some form of permitless carry law on the books. Texans are already allowed to carry rifles in public without a permit.
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Permitless carry is a win for conservative lawmakers and gun rights activists who helped usher the bill into law.
“This is a simple bill about the advancement of self-defense. Law-abiding citizens can avail themselves of their Second Amendment right to self-defend by carrying a sidearm in public spaces,” Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner, a sponsor of the bill, said Tuesday. “I believe it will improve safety both for the individual and society at large.”
Meanwhile, gun control activists and Democratic lawmakers decried the legislation, arguing that it will lead to more violence.
Following a shooting in Austin that left a tourist from New York dead and 13 others injured in the early hours of Saturday morning, Democratic state Rep. Vikki Goodwin wrote a letter to Abbott urging him to veto the bill.
“We need you, as our governor, to send the message that we are addressing mass gun violence in Texas,” Goodwin wrote in the letter to Abbott on Monday. “That message is not sent by undoing our system of licensing and the requirement that those who carry a gun obtain training in relevant laws and safety procedures.”
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More than half of Texans, 59%, said they oppose permitless carry, according to an April University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey. Support is split along ideological lines, with 56% of Republicans supporting permitless carry and only 10% of Democrats supporting it.
Abbott will hold a bill signing ceremony at the Alamo in San Antonio on Thursday alongside other high-profile Texas Republicans, according to the Austin-American Statesman.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.