By Julia Deng
BIG SPRING - The Senate State Affairs Committee approved two gun bills in February, taking steps toward passing the state's first open carry handgun laws.
However, Second Amendment activists in Big Spring said legalizing open carry - which would allow Texans to openly carry firearms in public - "still isn't enough" because licensing restrictions "are discriminatory and unconstitutional."
"A lot of folks can't even afford gas for their vehicles to get to work," Travis Kuenstler, a local chapter leader of Open Carry Texas, said. "Right now, the statute says that you have to go through a licensing process. There are a lot of families out there that just don't have an extra $140 dollars in order to get that license. Does that mean they don't have the right to protect themselves?"
Kuenstler said he ultimately hopes to see "Constitutional carry" laws in Texas, which would allow handguns to be carried without any kind of government permit.
"The United States Constitution does not require permits or licensing [as a prerequisite for the right to bear arms]," he told NewsWest 9. "$140 in order for me to exercise my rights, when the Supreme Court says you don't need a license to exercise your rights? Well, that's just simply lawlessness."
Kuenstler and other members of Open Carry Texas marched through Big Spring on Monday evening, aiming to educate local residents about "the full scope of their Constitutional gun rights."
"I wish I didn't have to march for this cause," Big Spring resident, Matthew Collins, said. "I wish [those rights were] already here."
He told NewsWest 9 he's "grateful" his wife is at least able to arm herself in the privacy of their home under current legislation.
"She's at home alone a lot of the time," Collins said. "It makes her feel more confident just knowing that her pistol [is] in the dresser right there [and] she can get to it."
44 states currently have laws permitting open carry; 30 of those states allow the open carrying of a handgun without a license.
In Texas, one of six states nationwide where handguns must be concealed in public, it is only legal to openly carry rifles and other long guns.
"We're actually at the bottom of the list [when it comes] to exercising Constitutional rights," Kuenstler said.