Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have taken a major step toward allowing Texans to openly carry handguns as long as they have a license.
The measure was tentatively approved following a 20-10 vote along party lines.
"The question we need to ask is not whether we should permit them to do this, but why are they forbidden to do it," said State Senator Craig Estes, a Wichita Falls Republican and sponsor of SB 17.
"Your bill just says, pass a test, strap it on, go across Houston," responded State Senator John Whitmire who opposed the bill.
If approved by the Texas House and signed by the Governor the measure would grant hundreds of thousands of Texans currently licensed to carry concealed handguns the right to wear their weapon openly.
Estes says the privilege would extend only to those who've been trained and passed both mental health and criminal background check.
"I think like we have 800,000 thousand concealed carry licensees in this state who I feel like have been vetted and trained and can be trusted to decide what's best for them whether they carry concealed or open," said Estes.
Democrats argued that the measure was reckless and would not improve public safety.
"Have you thought about the dangers you are about to expose the men and women who make up our law enforcement across the state?," asked Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and Dean of the Texas Senate.
Citing opposition from a majority of the state's police chiefs and sheriffs, Whitmire voiced vigorous opposition claiming open carry may be acceptable in the rural parts of the state, but poses a serious challenge in densely populated cities.
"Keep your weapon hidden and the bad guys have to guess and explore who might bring them down if they want to grab your child or rob your store or burglarize your home. Now you are fixing to send a message to the bad guys I have an open carry and they will attack you first and in crowded conditions, God forbid this building, take it away from you," said Whitmire.
"This is a solution looking for a problem," added State Senator Rodney Ellis, also a Houston Democrat.
But Open Carry supporters say that when you consider the track record of responsibility displayed by CHL holders over the past two decades concerns about the proposed law are over blown.