HOUSTON — A so-called Wild West law took effect Friday in Texas as officials began sending out applications for permits to carry concealed guns.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Green said an estimated 35,000 people have already requested permit applications. Those who get permits can start carrying their weapons Jan. 1.
Many fear that the controversial law, which has been criticized as a throwback to gun-filled days of the Wild West, will add to violence on Texas streets. The law was passed last spring by the Texas Legislature under pressure from gun advocates.
The law limits where concealed weapons may be carried and bars permits for people with criminal records or psychological problems. It also requires 15 hours of instruction in how to handle a gun.
A recent newspaper poll showed that 25% of the state's nearly 18 million residents intended to seek a permit, but law enforcement officials believe that the final number will be far lower based on the experience of other states where concealed weapons are allowed.
"Once people see what's involved and what they have to do to qualify, that will lower the number," Green said. "Other states have ended up with 1% to 2% of the population being licensed, which would be 180,000 to 360,000 people."
In Florida, which has given concealed-weapons permits since 1987, about 2% of the population, or 161,000 people, have the licenses, state officials said.