A new pro-gun law in Texas that went into effect Wednesday allows most Texans who legally own a firearm to carry it openly in public without obtaining a permit or training, a measure that experts say will make it more challenging for law enforcement to protect the public from gun violence.
The controversial “constitutional carry” legislation is the latest in a series of pro-gun bills that state lawmakers passed this year as gun violence incidents rise in Texas and across the country.
The number of shootings in Texas, not including suicides, increased 14% this year with roughly 3,200 shootings compared to the same period in 2020, which recorded roughly 2,800 shootings, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA).
Gun violence incidents this year increased 50% over the same period in 2019, which saw 2,100 shootings, the data shows.
Conservative activists had lobbied for permitless carry proposals for years, but they were stalled in the past three legislative sessions. Declaring that the law “instilled freedom in the Lone Star State,” Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill after the state House of Representatives approved in an 82-62 vote.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said people open carrying firearms have made it harder for officers to differentiate a “good guy with a gun from a bad guy with a gun.”
“Owning a firearm and being able to deploy a firearm in a safe manner requires not only familiarity with the weapon system but also a level of proficiency,” said Frank Straub, the director of the Center for Mass Violence Response Studies at the National Police Foundation.
Known as House Bill 1927, the law applies to Texans age 21 and older and excludes people who are prohibited from legally owning a firearm, such as those convicted of a felony, assault, domestic violence or terrorist threats. Before the law went into effect Wednesday, residents could carry handguns only with a license and were required to complete training, as well as pass a written exam and proficiency test.
Texas joins several other conservative states, such as Iowa, Tennessee, Montana, Utah and Wyoming have passed legislation this year allowing some form of permitless carry as President Joe Biden pushed forward executive actions to address gun violence in the wake of several high-profile mass shootings.
In more than 40 states, people can carry loaded, semi-automatic rifles in public without a license or training. Five states, including California and the District of Columbia, ban the open carry of loaded long guns, while only Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey require permits to openly carry long guns