Texas legislators approve licensed open carry bill, sending it to Gov. Abbott

AUSTIN – Open carry in Texas is just a signature away from becoming law, as the House and Senate voted in rapid succession Friday to send the contentious bill to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The measure, opposed by most Democrats, would allow licensed Texans to openly carry handguns in belt or shoulder holsters. It passed the Legislature only after supporters agreed to strip an amendment that was fiercely opposed by police officials.

Abbott, a Republican, said emphatically on Friday that he would sign open carry into law.

“Open carry just passed in both the Texas House & Senate,” the governor wrote on Twitter after the votes. “Next destination: My Pen.”

The bill first passed the House on a 102-42 vote. The Senate then passed it to Abbott on a 20-11 vote.

The proposal, which would go into effect in January, would mark the most dramatic overhaul of Texas’ gun regulations in two decades.

Texas has long allowed the open carry of long guns, such as rifles and shotguns. But even with the state’s gun friendly reputation, it’s currently just one six states to not allow some open carry of handguns.

“Let’s boldly go where everyone has gone before us,” Sen. Craig Estes, the bill’s sponsor, said this week. “I don’t think it is anything bold or new, but it may take some people a little bit to get used to it.”

With the votes stacked against them – and a Senate filibuster not feasible – Democrats offered only token opposition Friday. But Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, made clear his view that open carry is “one of the worst things we could do in Texas.”

“Out of all the important issues, with all due respect, that we had to work on this session, this one is not one that I would put on any lists of the Top 100,” he said.