The Texas Senate passed an open carry handgun bill, which now heads back to the House for final approval. The Lone Star state is one step closer to legalizing what would be the most dramatic revamp of state firearm regulations in decades. The measure would allow handgun owners to openly carry their weapons in a belt or shoulder holster.
The Senate finally passed the bill late Friday night after legislators spent hours bickering over a controversial amendment that was added to the bill – whether police would be allowed to stop a citizen solely for carrying a weapon in public to ensure that they had the proper license.
Writes CBS7.com out of Texas: “The Senate approved House Bill 910, which would allow properly licensed gun owners to openly carry their handguns in shoulder or hip holsters. The bill passed by a final vote of 19-12 and now heads back to the House, where that chamber’s members will have to agree with the Senate’s changes.”
The open carry measure – Texas House Bill 910 – can be read here in its entirety.
An infrequent alliance of Democrats and some Republicans united to oppose the amendment, alleging that ultimately, the public may be put in danger. The amendment, authored by Dallas Republican Don Huffines, was eventually adopted and passed as part of the bill.
“I’m not sitting down until I have made my point that this is a mistake,” said Houston Republican Joan Huffman of the contentious amendment. “With certain rights come responsibilities, and there has to be some social order.”
Houston Democrat John Whitmire, the state’s longest-serving senator, said the proposed amendment was nothing but a backhanded way to accomplish “Constitutional Carry” – a neologism referring to the legal carrying of handgun without the requirement of any government permits.
“We are really, really playing with a dangerous matter. It’s not something that we can afford to be wrong about,” Whitmire said.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, told the floor his National Rifle Association membership was “a badge of honor for the past 25 years.” He supported Huffines amendment because he said it would discourage another very real issue – racial profiling of armed African Americans.
“If somebody is going to be profiled over walking around the streets of Houston or Austin with a gun, in my mind, I think somebody who looks like me is more apt to get stopped than somebody who looks like you,” Ellis, an African American, said to Whitmire.
The law would take effect in 2016 and apply to anyone over 21 years of age. In order to obtain an open carry license, a gun owner would need to pass a mandatory background check, attend a four- to six-hour training seminar, pass both a written test and a physical, and pay $140 to the state.
The law did not propose any change in banned concealed carry locations. Texans would still be prohibited from open carry inside of schools, bars and sporting events. Individual businesses would still have the right to post “no guns” signage.
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