The Lone Star State surpassed an important milestone last month, as more than one million Texans are now licensed to carry firearms for personal protection, either concealed or open carry.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, in a news release dated May 2, reports that the number of active handgun owners as of April 30, 2016 stood at 1,017,618, or about 3.7 percent of the state’s citizenry. That compares to 937,419 at the end of 2015.
That means about 80,000 Texans have become licensed to carry since the Jan. 1, when the state’s new open carry law took effect, allowing licensed Texans to carry holstered handguns in plain view.
Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, has the highest number of permits with 139,563. It is followed by Tarrant County (Ft. Worth/Arlington) with 71,504, Dallas County with 57,620, and Bexar County (San Antonio) with 53,855.
Texas approved concealed carry in 1995, and had issued a total of 215,836 permits by 2000.
Florida continues to lead the country with the highest number of licensed handgun carriers with 1,743,945 as of April 30.
With 5,672 permits issued per 100,000 adults 21 and older, Texas ranks fourth with the most gun permits per capita. Florida ranks first, with 11,965 permits per 100,000 adults, followed by Tennessee (11,851 per 100,000 adults) and Washington State (10,635 per 100,000 adults).
Texas lawmakers first passed a measure approving lawful concealed carry in 1993, though it was vetoed by then-governor Ann Richards. A bill was subsequently passed in 1995 and signed by Gov. George W. Bush, and became effective beginning in 1996.