The Texas Senate has approved a Republican-led effort to allow people to carry handguns in the state without any kind of a license.
According to The Texas Tribune, the Senate passage of the bill was considered the biggest remaining hurdle in getting the effort approved. The Senate passed the bill by a vote, along party lines, of 18-13.
The Texas House has already passed a similar measure. It now will go to a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to resolve any differences in the bills. The Tribune pointed out that Gov. Greg Abbott has already said he will sign the "permitless" carry bill into law.
The measure would allow those 21 and older who can already legally own a gun to carry a handgun in public without a license, safety course, and background check now spelled out under a current law, The Hill said.
Texas has more than 1.6 million handgun license holders under a law first passed in 1995, according to The Associated Press. The state doesn't require a license to carry long guns in public, and eliminating the license for handguns has long been a goal of hardcore gun activists. After years of being mostly ignored, they seized on a change of leadership in the Texas House to press forward.
"We cannot allow another session to come and go where we pay lip service to the Second Amendment while failing to fully restore the God-given rights to our citizens," said Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner. "We simply can't allow this opportunity to pass us by. This issue is far too important."
And the Tribune quoted him as saying: "This bill, to me, is a restoration of the belief in and trust of our citizens."
Republican State Sen. Jane Nelson had expressed concerns about protecting domestic violence victims.
"I have struggled with this, and I am a strong, strong supporter of the Second Amendment," Nelson said Wednesday before voting in favor of the bill.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, also hailed the passage of the bill, noting it was evidence of th state's strong support of the Second Amendment.
"I am proud that the Texas Senate passed (the bill) today, the Constitutional Carry bill, which affirms every Texan's right to self-defense and our state’s strong support for our Second Amendment right to bear arms.," he said. "In the Lone Star State, the Constitution is our permit to carry." he said in. "We have moved quickly on this legislation and I want to thank all those involved who helped gather the votes needed to pass this historic bill."
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