On Friday, Second Amendment supporters in Texas celebrated as a bill to allow licensed open carry of handguns moved closer to becoming law.

The Texas State House approved of the so-called “Open Carry” bill by a preliminary vote of 96 to 35. The final vote is expected next week. The bill would allow concealed handgun license holders to display their guns in shoulder or belt holsters. The state Senate has already approved a similar version but some details still need to be worked out. If the bill passes Texas Governor Greg Abbott has promised to sign it into law.

Critics of the bill have included Texas Democrats and law enforcement who have said the bill will endanger public safety. Texas stands alongside California, Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina, as being the only remaining states that prohibit open carry. 

“We are excited and appreciative that both chambers of the legislature have now voted to return at least a fraction of Texans’ right to keep and bear arms as they see fit,” says CJ Grisham, President of Open Carry Texas, an activist group dedicated to spreading awareness on open carry. However, Grisham says the state lawmakers did not go far enough. “We are disappointed that the speaker and bill author refused to go on record with a vote on constitutional carry.” Constitutional Carry advocates like Grisham believe that anyone who can legally own a firearm should be able to carry the weapon “without government permission slips.”

Texas lawmakers are also working on the equally controversial “Campus Carry” bill. The measure would make it legal for students at least 21-year-old to carry handguns on most campus buildings. The students would be required to take classroom and range training, and pass a background check. Protests, rallies, and discussion groups have been held by both sides of the debate at universities and campuses across the state.

What are your thoughts? Is Open Carry a right? Is Constitutional Carry what lawmakers should be supporting?

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