Texas lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would allow residents to carry handguns without licenses, paving the way for Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law a measure that its conservative backers have hailed as historic.
Abbott, a Republican, said last month that he would support the so-called permitless carry bill, which would apply to people 21 and older beginning later this year.
The bill's authors have said the law is necessary because obtaining a license to carry a handgun in the state — which requires training, a written test, fingerprints and other measures — "infringes" on Texans' Second Amendment rights.
No license is required to carry a rifle in the state.
Gun control groups, Democratic lawmakers and some law enforcement officials have opposed the bill, arguing that it would "strip" critical safeguards from the gun-buying process and make police officers' jobs more dangerous.
"The right to bear arms is not unfettered," Kevin Lawrence, president of the Texas Municipal Police Association, said at the state Capitol last month. "We disagree with the folks that push this issue. They take one half of one amendment and ignore the rest of the Constitution."
In a statement Monday, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action called the bill the "most significant pro-Second Amendment measure in Texas history."