The Texas Senate approved a bill on Friday that would allow the open carry of handguns, permitting residents to carry licensed handguns openly in a shoulder or belt holster. The bill was passed on a 19-12 vote, just days after a deadly shootout in Waco killed nine and injured 18, sparking fresh debate around the issue.
The bill’s proponents defended the move, saying that the shooting would have occurred with or without open carry.
“All of us were horrified at what happened in Waco,” Texas Senator Craig Linton Estes, R-Wichita Falls, said, according to the Guardian. “I truly do not think that this bill we are working on today, whether it’s as it is now or in law at the time, would have made any difference with that lawless bunch of people.”
The bill is now due for the House of Representatives, which passed a similar bill last month. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that he would pass any open carry bill that crosses his desk.
“This bill has been worked on and worked on,” Estes said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “This is something the people of Texas can use and need.”
The bill was expected to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate fairly smoothly, but was held up by an amendment proposed by Democratic Senator Don Huffines, R-Dallas, which would have limited the ability of police to stop and question people about whether their openly carried gun was properly licensed.
The amendments’ defenders said that it would prevent police officers from racially profiling and harassing citizens with lawfully owned weapons. "If somebody is going to be profiled for walking around the streets of Houston or Austin with a gun, someone who looks like me is more likely to get stopped," Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who is black, said, according to the Associated Press.
However, law enforcement groups and others who opposed the amendment said it would effectively allow unlicensed open carry and threaten the lives of police officers. The proposed amendment was eventually withdrawn.
“Lastly, the issue of open carry will finally be passed and Texas will join the large majority of states who allow open carry,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement. “I am proud of the fact the legislature is making history while defending life, liberty and our second amendment right.”
Texas is one of six states in the U.S. that prohibits open carry.