Update: Gov. Abbott signed the permitless carry bill into law Wednesday, June 16. Starting Sept. 1, Texans can carry a handgun without a license.
Essentially, the constitutional carry bill will allow Texas residents to carry handguns without getting a license as long as they meet certain requirements. And many worry that repealing the requirement to get a handgun license will lead to more mass shootings, as there have already been 19 in Texas in 2021, according to Gun Violence Archive.
But with all of the fear-mongering headlines and discussions of Texas returning to the Old West once Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs it into law, it’s difficult (if not, impossible) to know what the constitutional carry bill really means for everyday citizens.
And while it has yet to be signed by Abbott (who promises to sign it into law) and won’t go into effect until Sept. 1, here are the five main issues to know about the constitutional carry bill in the meantime.
What would the bill do?
The bill’s change is best seen and understood when comparing it to what the Texas law is now. Under current Texas law, citizens have to get a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed. To get a license, applicants must take a shooting proficiency test, complete four to six hours of training, pass a written test and submit fingerprints.
All of these steps were (and currently are) required to get a license to carry a handgun. So, in short, the constitutional carry law would do away with the requirement to do all of these steps since you’ll no longer need a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed.
Who does the bill apply to?
Not just any Texan can carry around a handgun without a license. The constitutional carry bill directly states that “persons who are currently prohibited from possessing firearms under state and federal law will not gain the right to possess or carry a firearm under this legislation.”
People who are prohibited from having a gun include those convicted of a felony, convicted of certain assault offenses, under a protection order or adjudicated to be mentally incompetent. And the bill is also restricted to persons under 21.
Basically, you don’t need to worry about any hardened criminals or young kids running around with guns (not legally, anyways).
What types of guns does the bill apply to?
While on its face the constitutional carry bill sounds like it would apply to all types of gun, this isn’t the case. Oddly enough, handguns were the only type of gun that required a license to carry in Texas.
Other guns like shotguns, rifles and military-style rifles are allowed to be carried openly without a license in most places. Essentially, the bill will just add handguns to the list of guns people can carry openly (or concealed) without a license in Texas.
Where are guns allowed?
Guns weren’t allowed just anywhere before, and that won’t change under the new bill. Unless you’re a licensed peace officer, you can’t bring guns into a variety of public places such as:
- Schools/school events
- Private businesses where the owner outlaws weapons on the premises
- Government buildings
- Polling places
- Amusement parks
Is the bill groundbreaking?
While the bill may seem revolutionary and cutting-edge, it’s really not (at least in comparison to other states). A whopping 20 other U.S. states have similar constitutional carry laws, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
The other fully unrestricted states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on 6/3/21 to correct that concealed carry of firearms is allowed at most universities.