A new Texas gun law that went into effect Wednesday allows most Texans who legally own a firearm to carry it openly in public without obtaining a permit or training, a move experts say could help will make it more difficult for authorities to protect the public from gun violence.
Öcontroversial “constitutional transport” legislationIt's the latest in a series of bills state legislatures passed this year as gun violence cases rise in Texas and across the country.
The number of shootings in Texas, excluding suicides, is up 14% this year, with about 3,200 shootings compared to the same period in 2020, when there were about 2,800 shootings, according to Gun Violence Archive (GVA) data. Incidents of gun violence this year represent a 50% increase from the same period in 2019, when there were 2,100 shootings, the data shows.
"In Texas, full license revocation is a sea change," said Andrew Karwoski, policy expert at Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation's largest gun violence prevention organization. "Just allowing almost anyone to carry a gun in public, no questions asked, no background checks or safety training, is really dangerous."
Conservative activists have campaigned on illegal transportation proposals for years, but have stalled in the last three parliamentary terms. Governor Greg Abbott said the law "infused liberty into the Lone Star State" and signed the bill into law, which passed the state House of Representatives by an 82-62 vote, in June despite opposition from Democrats, some police leaders and supporters of the control.
Gun shop owner Jesus "Chuy" Aguirre, left, meets with customer Angel Zacarias at Chuy's Gun Shop in El Paso, Texas on Thursday amid anticipation of new Texas gun laws.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said people carrying firearms made it harder for officers to tell a "good guy with a gun from a bad guy with a gun."
"Owning a firearm and using a firearm safely requires not only familiarity with the weapon system, but also a certain level of competence," said Frank Straub, director of the National Police Foundation's Center for Studies in Response to Violence in Mass. 🇧🇷
Known asHouse Law of 1927, the law applies to Texans over the age of 21 and excludes those who are legally prohibited from owning a firearm, such as Before the law went into effect on Wednesday, residents could only carry guns with a license and had to undergo training and pass a written exam and proficiency test.
A small group of anti-government, pro-gun protesters gather in front of the Texas State Capitol in Austin on January 17, 2021.
republicanProponents of the bill arguedthat by removing licensing requirements, they will remove an "artificial barrier" to residents' right to bear arms under the Constitution and ensure more Texans have access to "protect themselves or their families" in public.
"To me, this bill is a restoration of faith and trust in our citizens," said State Senator Charles Schwertner, a Republican and supporter of the bill. "Anyone who owns a firearm must be able to carry a firearm."
Texas joins several other conservative states -- such as Iowa, Tennessee, Montana, Utah and Wyoming -- in passing legislation this year allowing some form of illegal possession, President Joe Biden urged.Executive Actions to Combat Gun Violencein the wake of several high-profile mass shootings.
More than 40 states allow people to carry semi-automatic rifles in public without a license or training. Five states, including California and the District of Columbia, prohibit open carry of loaded long guns, according to Everytown, while only Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey require open carry long gun licenses. 29 states allow civilians to open and carry loaded long gunsaround state capitals, laut Everytown.
“As we've seen gun extremism continue to rise in this country, we've also seen people opening the door at marches and rallies and then showing up at elected officials, polling stations, rallies and then on January 6th. on the US Capitol,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which has campaigned for gun safety measures since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six educators.
Open transport makes the job more dangerous for law enforcement, officials say
Earlier this year, Texas police officers held a press conference in Austin to oppose the so-called "Constitutional Bearing" legislation. They included Dallas Police Chief Garcia and Houston Police Officers Union President Doug Griffith. "A minimum level of training does not require too much to carry a firearm and is consistent with the Second Amendment," Garcia said at the news conference.
"It makes our work, the work of our men and women, more dangerous," he added. "Gun owners have a duty to ensure their firearms are used safely and a duty to be aware of applicable laws."
If a person is seen carrying a firearm at a demonstration or in a store, there is little police can do unless the person is acting illegally, according to Everytown's Karwoski.
"One of the reasons open loading is so dangerous is that it's so difficult to use," Karwoski said. "It's difficult for law enforcement, when they see someone walking down the street with a military-style assault weapon, to understand their intentions and respond accordingly."
While everyone has the right to purchase and carry guns under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, Straub said, those individuals must "go through a process that ensures safe possession of a firearm."
But not everyone should have access to a gun, Straub said -- especially those struggling with suicidal thoughts, certain mental health issues and a history of domestic violence.
"We need to have safety precautions in place that protect both the person carrying the firearm and the public," he said.
Research shows that open transit can increase violent behavior in general
Mass shooting 2019 in oneWalmart in ElPasoand in oneFilming in Midland and Odessaleft 30 dead and dozens injured, and prompted Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to briefly consider a gun control proposal that would make it harder for Texans to purchase a firearm.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference June 8, 2021 in Austin.
But during his annual address to the state earlier this year, Abbott stressed the need to "erect a complete ban on any government official trampling on gun rights anywhere in Texas."
Texas has seen a steady increase in mass shootings over the past four years. According to GVA data, the state had 38 mass shootings as of August 31, a 40% increase from the same period last year and a sharp increase from 19 mass shootings in 2019 and 10 in 2018. Statewide as of August 31, there were 464 mass shootings , compared to 418 last year and 286 in 2019, GVA data shows.
CNN and GVA define a mass shooting as a shooting in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the shooter.
Several high-profile mass shootings in recent years have prompted law enforcement and lawmakers to call for tougher gun control laws, including open carry restrictions. 2016 Dallasfive police officers were killed and seven others injuredin what US law enforcement officials say was the deadliest incident since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
White nationalists who attended theUnite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, invaded the city in 2017 while openly carrying handguns and rifles. The demonstration ended withone person killed and 19 injuredafter a white supremacist drove his car into a group of counter-protesters. In Kenosha, Wisconsin last year, a 17-year-old was among a group of men who openly carried guns during protests following the police killing of Jacob BlakeKyle Rittenhouse, who shot three people with his long gun.
Our rReport posted by Everytown last weekand the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) includes a study of 560 events between January 2020 and June 2021 in which protesters, counter-protesters, or other individuals or groups were present and carried or brandished firearms.
"Contrary to claims that the presence of guns in public spaces makes people safer," says the report, "demonstrations involving at least one armed person are violent or destructive 16 percent of the time."
The study found that armed protests were nearly six times more likely to become violent or destructive compared to unarmed protests. While armed demonstrations turn violent or destructive about 16% of the time, unarmed protesters can turn violent 3% of the time, the report said.
"Data shows that visible guns make people more aggressive, so believing that openly carrying them increases the likelihood that disagreements will escalate into violent conflict is a logical next step," said Watts of Moms Demand Action.
First refusal rights are part of the problem, experts say
In 2013, a group of moms who volunteered with Moms Demand Action were having lunch at a Dallas-area restaurant when they were confronted by a group of 40 men who were openly armed with long guns, Watts said.
"They pretended to target volunteers in the restaurant and the manager couldn't do anything because it was legal to open the long gun permit," she said. "We were shocked that this behavior was legal and appeared to be an alarming practice designed to intimidate and silence us."
In states where open carry is legal, Watts said members of the organization have been routinely surrounded by gunmen while holding rallies, marches, volunteer events and private gatherings. Moms Demand Action volunteers have helped dozens of businesses ban open carry in stores since 2013 and will continue their work with Texas' new carry-out law without a permit, she added.
Part of the problem is preventive legislation that forces cities "to bear the brunt of gun violence without allowing them to change policies that could solve it," Watts said.
Enacted in over 40 states, including Texas, these laws prevent local cities and towns from enacting their own gun safety measures.
"Having comprehensive prevention laws is incredibly stifling for local leaders to create local solutions to gun violence, and that includes open carrying," Everytown's Karwoski said.
As a result, he said, densely populated cities and large urban centers are subject to the same rules and regulations as rural and suburban areas, where the gun violence crisis is very different.
"This means that municipalities cannot regulate at the local level," added Karwoski. "If they attempt to do so, they can be prosecuted and subject to fines and other punitive measures that will no doubt have a chilling effect on any gun-regulating place."