EL PASO, Texas-- The Texas "Constitutional carry" bill took a major step forward after an 18-13 vote by the state Senate ok'd the bill last week, moving it very near to becoming law. The vote came under party lines within days after a committee created to tackle gun legislation put the bill forward.
While the bill is not law yet, those opposed to it are already raising concerns. This bill would remove any requirements for Texans to obtain a license to carry a handgun if they are eligible to do so by state and federal law. Anyone already allowed to carry a hand gun aged 21 and over would be allowed to openly do so without a license.
License to carry instructor Tom Fenton of El Paso is not sold on the bill, saying he believes it has the potential of leading to some disastrous situations.
“I get a lot of people that really that don’t know - they are actually going to look down the barrel to see if the gun is loaded, really I get people like that. They have no idea about the danger firearms pose, nor their responsibilities and liabilities that come along with it,” Fenton said.
Fenton believes his classes not only teach people how to shoot, but go far beyond that. As an instructor registered with the Texas Department of Public Safety, his job is to also teach his students the law and how to abide by it as a gun owner.
“What we teach on this is if you can run away, run away. If you can walk away, walk away. Don’t let your pride get in the way and you don’t want to be involved in the aftermath of what is going to happen if you do get involved in a shooting situation,” Fenton said.
While Fenton does not believe this bill will lead to a wave of violence at the hands of unlicensed gun owners, he is afraid that accidents relating to guns may rise. Supporters of the bill view it as the ultimate defense of the state constitution and the U.S. Second Amendment.
“This is not about new gun owners, this is a right restoring. This is about people who believe this is a right that should have never been taken away from them,” Andy Turner, the legislative director for the Texas Rifle Association said.
ABC-7 reached out to law enforcement agencies to get their take on the bill. The El Paso Police Department remained neutral on the matter. But El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles was more outspoken, detailing his objections to the bill.
"In short, this bill would potentially increase the number of untrained individuals carrying weapons and erode safeguards currently in place that ensure safe, responsible, educated gun ownership. In addition, it is conceivable that many new gun carriers would go ‘un-vetted’ making the job of law enforcement much more dangerous than it already is," Wiles said.
Amendments to the bill are being dealt with by a conference committee at this point before it proceeds to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign the measure into law.