Permitless gun carry continued its sweep across the nation on Monday as the Texas legislature adopted the policy on Monday.
The nation’s second-largest state became the 21st to drop the permit requirement. The bill allows Texans over the age of 21 to carry a gun unless they are prohibited from owning a gun under federal or state law. The policy has quickly become the most popular state-level gun legislation over the past decade, with only Alaska and Vermont adopting it before 2010.
“This is something that 20 other states have adopted, and it’s time for Texas to adopt it, too,” Republican Governor Greg Abbott told WBAP last month. The bill now heads to his desk. “I’ll be signing it,” he told the news station.
Permitless carry, sometimes referred to as “Constitutional carry,” is now nearly the most common kind of gun-carry law in the United States. 21 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted shall-issue laws, where a permit is required to carry a gun, but the government must issue a permit to those who apply and qualify for one. Eight states have may-issue laws where a permit is required, but government officials can deny permits on a subjective basis if they don’t feel the applicant has a “good reason” to carry a gun.
A challenge to the constitutionality of New York’s may issue law is currently being heard by the Supreme Court. The court could uphold the restrictive may-issue law, strike may-issue laws down but approve of shall issue, or eliminate the permitting requirement, which could force states to adopt policies similar to the one in Texas.
Proponents called the bill’s passage a win for Constitutional rights. They argued the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and removing the permit requirement to exercise that right was prudent.
“This is a simple restoration of Texans’ constitutional right under the Second Amendment, a right of the people to keep and bear arms,” Republican Senator Charles Schwertner, who sponsored the bill, said on Monday.
The Firearms Policy Coalition called the bill a “landmark victory” that restores the “right to bear arms for tens of millions of people in the Lone Star state.” Jason Ouimet, head of the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, said “a right requiring you to pay a tax or obtain a government permission slip is not a right at all,” and the bill is the “most significant pro-Second Amendment measure in Texas history.”
Opponents of the bill framed it as dangerous. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing El Paso in Congress, called the bill a “betrayal of victims and survivors of attacks across our state” in a statement to El Paso Matters.
“The permitless carry bill is a betrayal of victims and survivors of attacks across our state,” the congresswoman told the paper. “Despite overwhelming support for common-sense gun violence prevention legislation like universal background checks, it’s clear that Texas Republicans, led by a cowardly governor, are more interested in groveling for the gun lobby’s attention than they are in preventing more violence. They have no shame.”
The gun-control group Giffords said permitless carry would lead to more violent crime.
“Tragically, Texas communities will likely experience the harmful effects of gun violence even more so with the signing of this reckless bill,” Peter Ambler, executive director of the group, said in a statement. “Instead of passing effective laws, like strengthened background checks, Governor Abbott has eliminated protections that help prevent people who can’t pass a background check from being able to carry hidden loaded weapons in public spaces. Texas families deserve a future without gun violence.”
However, the rise of permitless-carry laws throughout the country has not increased the murder or violent crime rate over the past decade. Crime rates have remained near historic lows since the laws started seeing widespread adoption in 2010.
Texas had 1,626,242 active gun-carry licenses as of the end of 2020, according to the Texas Department of Safety. The bill will allow residents to retain gun carry permits in order to carry in other states that honor the Texas permit. If Governor Abbott follows through on his promise to sign the bill, it will go into effect on September 1st, 2021.
Gun-rights proponents said Texas adopting permitless carry would likely push other states to do so and increase momentum for the policy across the country. On Tuesday, a permitless-carry bill passed Pennsylvania’s House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 14 to 11 and is on its way to a potential floor vote.
“The Texas Legislature’s action on this bill is another powerful example of the nationwide movement towards restoring the full right to keep and bear arms, and making the exercise of that right accessible to all,” the Firearms Policy Coalition said.