Texas Senate approves open carry gun bill: What are the repercussions?

Up until now, Texas has been one of the few US states to prohibit openly carrying a handgun. 

Eric Gay/AP
Open carry supporter Scott Smith wears a pistol in Austin, Texas.

On Monday, the Texas Senate approved Senate Bill 17, which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to openly carry firearms. The bill was passed on along party lines, with Republicans pushing the vote 20 to 11.

After the upper chamber takes a final vote, the bill will head to the House. If approved, it will then go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who tweeted his approval on Sunday.

If the bill becomes law, are there any foreseeable repercussions that will affect the Lone Star State?

Despite its reputation for cowboy conservatism, Texas is one of only six states – along with New York, Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, and California – to prohibit citizens from openly carrying handguns. According to the advocacy group OpenCarry.org, 14 states require a permit, and another 30 states do not.

Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), who brought Senate Bill 17 forward, said he does not see any problems with the bill.

“In other states that have taken this step … it’s been deemed pretty much a non-event,” Estes said as he introduced the bill, reported The Texas Tribune. “We have searched really hard far and wide for problems, and we haven’t found any.”

The upper chamber debated the bill’s implications for four hours before voting in favor of the bill, reported The Texas Tribune. Multiple senators — mainly Democrats — proposed amendments to the bill, including calls for increased training, additional licensing requirements, and background checks. Most were declined.

State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) discussed the effects of having guns on hand. He stated that it is not only easier for the gun owner to access his firearms, but also other bystanders who may be unstable and violent to do so. Whitmore, who also chairs the criminal justice committee, also discussed the complications it provides to law enforcement: In the event of a shoot-out where now multiple people are firing weapons, how will police identify the perpetrator?

Current Texas law states that gun owners may carry concealed handguns with a permit, while open carry applies to long guns such as shotguns and rifles. The new law would enable gun owners to carry handguns visibly, in shoulder or belt holsters.

In February, when a committee approved the bill to be seen before the State Senate, Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) said that the purpose of the law is to enable citizens the right to openly carry if they deem it necessary.

“We are talking about law-abiding citizens who want to exercise their rights,” Huffman said to the Western Journal. “It’s a matter of letting people, if they so choose, protect themselves in a legal way.”

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