Texas Gov. Bush Signs Concealed Gun Bill
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Gov. George W. Bush signed a law today allowing most Texans to carry concealed handguns for the first time since the 1870s.
``Texas will be a better place because of this law,″ said Bush, a Republican who made loosening gun restrictions a key issue of his election campaign last year. The Legislature approved the bill last week.
Former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards vetoed a bill in 1993 that would have allowed Texans to vote on the issue.
The legislation permits most Texans 21 or older to apply beginning Sept. 1 for concealed gun licenses. Those granted permits could begin carrying concealed weapons on Jan. 1.
The law provides for screening to exclude people who face criminal charges or have past convictions, people who haven’t paid child support or student loans, and people who are chemically dependent or of ``unsound mind.″
Applicants must undergo 10 to 15 hours of training and pass a proficiency exam. A four-year permit costs $140. The elderly and indigent receive a 50 percent discount.
It will still be illegal for Texas citizens to carry hidden weapons in some places, including bars, amusement parks, athletic events, hospitals, churches, and police stations and prisons.
Texas was one of just 11 states that prohibited carrying concealed guns under most circumstances, according to Handgun Control Inc., a Washington-based anti-gun group.
In Oklahoma, where the carrying of concealed guns is prohibited, a gun-permit bill is awaiting the signature of Gov. Frank Keating, who supports the bill.