In Gov. Greg Abbott’s first State of the State address Tuesday, he pledged to lawmakers his priority to help pass open carry legislation in the Lone Star State despite critics.
Abbott, former state attorney general, bested his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis last November in a landslide victory. A repeated promise he had made while campaigning for his new job in Austin would be to approve an open carry bill if given the opportunity. Very much on the record, he reiterated that pledge in front of the combined Texas legislature Tuesday.
“Let me briefly follow up on a word I mentioned a moment ago: liberty,” said Abbott near the end of the address. “In a single word, it encapsulates what the country stands for, what Texas symbolizes. I will expand liberty in Texas by singing a law that makes Texas the 45th state to allow open carry.”
Since the 19th century, it has been illegal for Texans to carry modern handguns outside of their home, which was only modified in 1995 when the state adopted a concealed carry statute. This leaves lawful gun owners in the state who do not carry concealed with a permit the option of either arming themselves with a primitive black-powder handgun or a long arm such as a rifle or shotgun.
A number of reform measures in both chambers of the state legislature aim to change this to either a permitless “constitutional carry” or legal open carry along with a valid state concealed handgun permit. One example of the latter, Senate Bill 17, passed out of committee last week by a 7-2 vote in the Republican dominated body.
However, some in law enforcement are joining with national gun control organizations to oppose any expansion of open carry in Texas.
“There is no justification or need for Open Carry in our great state, especially in our urban areas,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo in a release last week from Moms Demand Action. “Open-carry will unnecessarily make people targets, create confusion in highly volatile situations and ultimately will make all less safe.”
Acevado claims that a move to open carry would result in a burden on taxpayers, saying, “Should this law pass, Texans will have to pay for extensive training for police officers on tactics for responding and operating in this new environment, not to mention the cost of responding to calls for service open carry is sure to generate.”
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland and the Houston Police Union have shared similar views in recent days.
Texas is one of only six states that currently have a blanket prohibition on the open carry of firearms including states with such strict gun control laws as Illinois, New York and California.
This has led to a number of rallies across the state and a growing grassroots movement to include groups such as Open Carry Texas and Open Carry Tarrant County to push for reform in a variety of ways. Some of which have proved controversial.
The 84th Texas legislative regular session runs until June 1.