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AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) -- Texas Catholic bishops said they are opposed to a bill pending in the state legislature that would allow people to carry handguns without a permit.
Writing to legislators and the state's 8.5 million Catholics May 3, the bishops said the "permitless carry" proposal "would remove important safeguards to protect human life in our communities."
"As pastors we are alarmed at the aggressive calls for the unfettered presence of weapons carried into public places," the letter said, citing mass shootings that have occurred and the fear people have about such violence.
The bill has passed in the Texas House of Representatives, and a Senate committee specifically created to consider the legislation quickly approved it April 29. A vote in the full Senate was not scheduled.
Political observers questioned whether the bill has enough support in the Senate to pass and go to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, who is Catholic.
Known as HB 1927, the bill eliminates the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns as long as they are not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm. It also rescinds the requirement to receive training before carrying a handgun in public.
The bill has been opposed by some law enforcement officers, concealed carry license instructors and Democrats, all of whom cited safety concerns.
The bishops' said in their letter -- issued by the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops -- that the bill risks increasing the number of deaths because more untrained people would be carrying firearms in more public spaces.
"We are also concerned this bill would allow those with mental health issues to carry handguns. This would place our communities at greater risk of harm," the letter said.
The bishops urged society to confront the "growing culture of violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope, and a call to action."
"HB 1927 fails to reflect a commitment to life or a vision of hope and instead accomplishes nothing more than to make it easier for potentially violent persons to act in anger or delusion. This will cause people to feel more threatened and more afraid," the letter said.
"Too often we have seen how guns are used in the public forum by someone acting in anger. Instead of relying on law enforcement and our justice system, people with guns in public areas can become the aggrieved, the jury and the judge, in swift and violent sequence," it continued.
"Respect for the dignity of human life and moral responsibility will be further eroded" with the bill's passage, the letter added.
The letter was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, 13 state bishops and Bishop Stephen J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, established by the Vatican in 2012 to serve former Anglicans living full communion with the Catholic Church.
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Editors: The full text of the letter is online at https://txcatholic.org/oppose-hb1927-permitless-gun-carry/.