Texas is poised to become the largest state in the U.S. to allow citizens to openly carry handguns, a measure that gun-rights activists have long sought to change.
The Texas House of Representatives voted 96-35 on Friday to allow residents with concealed handgun licenses to opnely carry their guns in public in holsters, Fox News reported. A similar open-carry measure passed the Texas Senate last month; however both the open-carry bills must be squared before being sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — who previously indicated his support for the idea.
In contrast to its reputation for being permissive on firearms, Texas falls in the one of six states (including California, Florida, and New York) that currently bans citizens from openly carrying handguns. Those who wish to carry handguns in public must obtain concealed-weapons permits and keep the weapons hidden.
Texas currently allows residents to openly carry long guns in public, however that has spurred gun-rights groups to carry assault rifles into restaurants and stores along the sidewalks of adjoining the Texas Capitol, to prove a point that they view this as a senseless legal distinction.
The push by gun enthusiasts, a powerful constituency within the Texas Republican Party, has helped legislation move through the GOP-controlled Legislature this year after a few years of stalled efforts.
Gun-rights groups are also calling for legislation to allow some students and university employees the right to carry concealed handguns on college grounds. The Texas Senate approved a campus-carry measure last month. The Texas House is expected to pass a companion measure, and the idea is also supported by Gov. Abbott.
If it passed, it would make Texas one of only eight states with laws permitting concealed guns on college campuses, and the largest state at that.
“We are seeing historic progress in Texas,” said Terry Holcomb Sr., executive director of Texas Carry, a gun-rights group.