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Texas law enforcement officials react to new firearms carry law

Eligible Texans can now carry handguns without a license, either concealed or openly

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By Gabriel Monte
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

AUSTIN, Texas — A new law allowing eligible Texans to carry firearms without a license comes into effect Wednesday.

While area law enforcement officials don’t foresee any major issues stemming from the new law they are advocating gun owners to educate themselves on gun safety.

The new law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May removes a requirement for gun owners to take a safety course to possess firearms and allows them to carry a handgun either concealed or openly in a holster.

However, the law doesn’t affect the background check required to purchase firearms.

Also, churches and private businesses can continue to prohibit guns with written or verbal notice. They also have the discretion to ban open carry but allow the concealed carry of handguns.

“The core laws that was the big premise of this thing was that this doesn’t change a single thing other than that you no longer have to get a license,” said Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe. “Any and all existing laws on the books that apply to gang members, felons, whatever the case, none of that’s changed.”

Opponents of the bill, which included the Texas Police Chiefs Association, said the bill posed a risk to the public and law enforcement.

“At a time when violent crime is increasing in Texas and the State is trying to meet the challenges related to mass attacks in public places, increasing gang and drug related violence in major urban areas, and a high number of arrested and/or convicted felony offenders committing crimes after their release, it seems imprudent to support legislation that allows for unlicensed carry,” reads a letter the association sent to legislators in May.

Rowe said he didn’t foresee any major issues stemming from the new bill and remembers hearing similar concerns when legislators approved the concealed carry law.

[RELATED: What your department’s off duty/concealed carry training program should include]

“You know, every time one of these issues comes up it’s kind of like everybody holds their breath for a minute thinking somethings going to happen and at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s proving up anywhere that it’s (a problem),” he said.

He said Arizona didn’t have any significant issues when a similar bill was passed in 2010.

“Bottom line is, you’ve got good people, you’ve got bad actors,” he said. “Good people are going to do the right thing and bad actors are going to do what they always do and we’re going to we’ll come into contact with them as we come into contact with them.”

Rowe said stripping the requirement for gun owners to go through a gun safety course was a drawback.

“I think that’s to the detriment of the person wanting to carry, that they may not have that knowledge at hand and do something out of line with that or outside of that and they can find themselves in trouble,” he said.

However, he said gun owners in the area, by and large, are likely to go through gun safety courses without the requirement.

“They said this was true in Arizona, that even when they went permitless that vast majority of your good, law-abiding folks that were deciding they wanted to be able to carry a gun on their person were still going through the licensing processes and the classes,” he said.

Amarillo police Sgt. Carla Burr, a crime prevention specialist, encouraged people to take gun safety courses if they want to own a firearm.

“I’m hopeful that that’s how people will do it,” she said. “I think that’s the smart way to do it because then you know it’s a weapon, so it can be used to take someone’s life and anyone that’s going to have one is responsible for that whether they are educated on it or not.”

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