AUSTIN — Texas took a major step toward allowing the licensed open carry of handguns, with Senate approval coming late Friday night after a fierce debate over restricting police powers to ask people carrying guns if they are legal. The open carry bill was expected to easily pass the Republican-majority chamber but got tangled in a bipartisan move to add a ban on police from stopping people solely because they are visibly carrying a handgun.
The vote came less than a week after a biker shootout in Waco killed nine, an incident that was raised several times in the debate.
The bill still needs a final vote in the House, which passed a nearly identical version last month. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to sign an open carry bill into law. Supporters of the police restriction came from both sides of the aisle, Democrats who thought it would prevent harassment of law-abiding citizens and racial profiling of minorities, and Tea Party-backed conservatives and libertarians who thought it would protect against the unreasonable search and seizure of licensed handgun owners.