TEXARKANA, Texas — Several law enforcement organizations in Texas have spoken out against the "constitutional carry" gun bill awaiting the governor's signature to become law.
Law enforcement here has not been so outspoken.
If signed into law, the bill also known as HB 1927 will allow Texans 21 and older who are eligible to carry a handgun to do so openly in a holster or concealed, without a permit, which also means without the training and background check that goes with it.
The Legislature approved the measure May 24, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it. If signed, the law will take effect Sept. 1.
Texas already allows rifles to be carried in public without a license. The measure sent to Abbott would allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a handgun as long as they don't have violent crime convictions or some other legal prohibition in their background.
The bill would not prevent businesses from banning guns on their property, and federal background checks for some gun purchases would remain in place.
Supporters of the bill say it would allow Texans to better defend themselves in public while abolishing unnecessary impediments to the constitutional right to bear arms. Once it is signed into law, Texas will join nearly two dozen other states that allow some form of unregulated handgun carry and will be by far be the most populous state to do so.
The National Rifle Association supports the measure. In a statement on the NRA's website, Tara Mica, NRA state director for Texas, expressed thanks to House Speaker Dade Phelan, Senate sponsor Charles Schwertner and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for their leadership on the "landmark legislation."
But a number of Texas police associations led by the Dallas Police Association have spoke in opposition to the bill. The officers are concerned about the lack of safety awareness if a carrier is not licensed.
Locally, spokesmen for police agencies have either declined to comment on the issue until it is officially signed into law or say they will enforce the law no matter what because that's part of the job.
Shawn Vaughn, spokesman for the Texarkana Texas Police Department said the department will enforce the law without speaking out for or against it.
"We enforce the law, whatever the legislature sees fit," Vaughn said.
Complaints about people carrying handguns are very few locally, Vaughn said.
"We've had no major issues. There are some people who will still be prohibited from carrying guns, such as felons, and those are the main ones we are concerned about," he said.
Hooks Police Chief Ricky Woodard said his department will enforce the law without opinion.
"I will support the law and the Constitution," he said.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin said DPS does not comment on or discuss pending legislation.
Bowie County Sheriff Jeff Neal also said he would not comment on the issue until it becomes law.