WASHINGTON - All licensed gun owners in the US state of Texas can begin carrying their weapons in plain sight for the first time since 1871 under an “open carry” law passed in the Republican-dominated Texas legislature.

Beginning from the New Year, nearly one million people in Texas who have passed a required gun course and have a concealed handgun permit will be allowed to carry holstered handguns, according to the new law.

The law, however, bans the carrying of guns, either openly or concealed, in a wide variety of places including schools, sports arenas, bars and secure areas of airports. Although 45 other states in the US have legalised carrying a weapon in public view, Texas will become the largest state in the nation to pass such a measure.

“Open carry” is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Opponents of the new law have said it could be frightening for the public to see armed people on city streets, and inside public buildings and designated stores. Law enforcement officials have also expressed concern about how to deal with an unfolding crime scene where multiple people can be seen with weapons, which could cause deadly confusion.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is set to meet Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to discuss what he can do to curb gun violence, sidestepping an entrenched Congress.

In his first weekly radio address of the new year on Friday, Mr Obama said he would talk to Ms Lynch after a months-long examination of the measures he can take on his own to halt what he called “our epidemic of gun violence.”

Recalling the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people — 20 of them children — and left many grimly hopeful it would initiate a change in the nation’s gun laws, the president criticised lawmakers for bowing to the gun lobby and blocking necessary reforms.

“All across America, survivors of gun violence and those who lost a child, a parent, a spouse to gun violence are forced to mark such awful anniversaries every single day,” Obama said. “And yet Congress still hasn’t done anything to prevent what happened to them from happening to other families.”

Texas State Representative Diego Bernal, a Democrat representing San Antonio who voted against the bill, said the law is a mistake. “I don’t see how introducing firearms into everyday life makes anything better,” he said.

Texas, known for its wild west and cowboy history, has some of the country’s most relaxed gun laws and has about 914,000 concealed handgun licence holders, a number that has increased sharply in recent years.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), firearms are the cause of death for more than 33,000 people in the United States every year, a number that includes accidental discharge, murder and suicides. In 2015, there was an average of roughly 36 gun fatalities and 73 gun injuries each day across the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.