The US southwestern state of Texas is poised to remove one of its last legal gun restrictions after lawmakers approved allowing people to carry handguns without a licence, or the background check and training that go with the licence, the AP is reporting.
Texas already has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country and has more than 1.6 million handgun licence holders.
The legislature approved the measure on Monday, sending it to Governor Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it despite the objections of law enforcement groups who say it will endanger the public and police.
Gun control groups also oppose the measure, noting the state’s recent history of mass shootings, including those at a Walmart supermarket, a church, and a high school.
Supporters of the bill say it will allow Texans to better defend themselves in public while abolishing unnecessary limits on the constitutional right to bear arms.
Once signed into law, Texas will join over 20 states that allow some form of unregulated carrying of a handgun and be by far the most populous such state.
The National Rifle Association is among those supporting the measure, and a spokesman called it the “most significant” gun-rights measure in the state’s history.
“A right requiring you to pay a tax or obtain a government permission slip is not a right at all,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.
Texas already allows rifles to be carried in public without a license.
The new measure sent to Abbott will allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a handgun as long as they don’t have violent crime convictions or some other legal prohibition in their background. But there would be no way to weed them out without a background check.
Texas has allowed people to carry handguns since 1995 and has been reducing the cost and training requirements of getting a license for the last decade.
On Aug 3, 2019, a mass shooting occurred at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. A gunman walked into the store carrying a WASR-10 rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the AK-47, and shot and killed 23 people and injured 23 others.
The FBI described the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime. The shooting has been described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history.
Democratic state representative Joe Moody, on Sunday night delivered an emotional address on the House floor that recounted being with the governor and family members searching for loved ones after the shooting.
There were promises, Moody recalled, that the state would “take gun safety seriously” after the shooting, but the opposite has now happened.