By JIM VERTUNO | Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Senate is set to vote on a bill that would allow the licensed open carry of handguns in the state.

Debate on the bill started Monday afternoon with a vote expected later in the day.

Texas has allowed concealed carry of handguns since 1995, but a recent push for open carry has been taken up Republican leaders such as new Gov. Greg Abbott and new Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Texas is just one of six states that currently don't allow open carry of handguns. Abbott has already pledged to sign an open carry bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Gun-rights groups call the bill an important Second Amendment protection. Open carry opponents say openly carrying guns on the street is less about gun rights than intimidation.