The state of Texas took one step closer Monday to fully embodying its cartoonish TV persona as a gun-slinging, vigilante rodeo of a place, when the Republican-heavy state legislature passed a bill that would allow just about anyone to carry a handgun without a license, training, or a background check. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has already said he intends to sign the bill allowing unlicensed carry into law, dismantling one of the state’s few limitations on the ability of gun owners to do as they please.
The argument in the state breaks down among familiar lines. Gun control advocates point out that having more guns in the hands of more people without any substantive checks or safety measures provides more opportunities for gun-related deaths, which is a bad thing. Gun rights advocates, on the other hand, say the law would unshackle Texans from the public safety restraints placed between them and their guns by, well, the public itself and make it easier for Texans to defend themselves in the public square against bad-guys-with-a-gun™. The self-fulfilling cyclical logic of gun proponents continues to be, even after all these years and mass shootings later, astonishing. The state already has some 1.6 million handgun license holders floating around, what about everyone else? What happens when you bump into one of those guys in the parking lot? Might as well open’er up.
Texas, of course, already allows rifles to be carried in public without the need for a license. The coming handgun law wouldn’t allow anyone to carry a handgun, you have to be 21 or older and have a criminal record clean of violent crime convictions, but that’s more like the honor system, as without any licensing procedure to disqualify certain people it’s hard to see how it would prevent unlawful carry or use of a gun, other than after the fact. The bill will not prohibit businesses, such as big box retailers, from banning guns in their stores, which has been the case in a number of national chains. Texas already had some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, but it’s not necessarily outside of the mainstream as nearly half of American states allow some form of unregulated carry of a handgun.