Under a new law that went into effect on New Year’s Day, visitors will now be allowed to openly carry guns with them into state-run mental health hospitals in Texas.
This week, state mental health hospitals began pulling down signs that banned guns from their facilities in accordance with a new law that bars state agencies from banning guns from their property, USA Today reports. A similar law, which goes into effect on August 1, will allow guns into public universities.
In place of the old signs, hospitals have put up notices asking people to leave firearms in their car or to keep them out of view from patients.
“While licensed visitors are legally permitted to carry on our hospital campuses, our patients are being actively treated for psychiatric conditions and generally it’s best not to expose them to weapons of any kind,” state health department spokesperson Carrie Williams said in statement.
Critics of the new measures said guns raise tensions in otherwise peaceful circumstances, but gun-rights advocates counter that the presence of law-abiding gun owners deters criminals and mass shooters.
“It’s the responsibility of the operators of the facilities to ensure that the patients are not around dangerous weapons,” said State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, a vocal supporter of the new laws, according to the paper.