The Texas Senate has passed a bill that allows gun-owning Texans to have both open- and concealed-carry handguns during the week after a natural disaster in a bid to deter looters.
House bill 1177, which must pass the House and be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, narrowly passed the state Senate 16 to 15.
The bill aims to deter looting and was supported by the National Rifle Association, who claimed it “would offer temporary protection to honest Texans whose licenses are lost or damaged due to flood, wind or fire, and to those who don’t have a license because they never envisioned a need to transport or carry their handguns outside the home”.
HB 1177 drew criticism from gun control groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who said: “HB 1177 would weaken Texas gun safety laws in already sensitive situations by removing key safety requirements to carry hidden, loaded guns during a state of emergency.”
The initiative came after gun-owners pleaded with local politicians to relax licensing rules after Hurricane Harvey affected the area in 2017.
The bill's two sponsors, Representative Dade Phelan and state Senator Brandon Creighton, were torn between allowing owners to carry non-permitted handguns for 48 hours or one week after a natural disaster, but a committee ultimately decided to push forward with the one week option.
Senator Joan Huffman, one of the three Republicans who voted against it, said she was concerned about the effect the bill could have on law enforcement during a natural disaster.
Ms Huffman said: “It’s really, really poor public policy that is not well thought out.
“It is not solving a problem. It is creating a problem.”
Ms Huffman was joined in her dissent by all 12 Senate democrats.
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