As the shattered community in El Paso, Texas, reels in wake of the nation’s seventh deadliest mass shooting on Saturday, which left 22 people dead, the state is gearing up for an overhaul of several gun laws in just a few weeks’ time.
But the changes won’t be tightening the gun laws that allowed the shooter to legally purchase an AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle; they will be loosening them.
Under the current laws in Texas, legal gun owners don’t require an additional permit to carry long guns, such as the one the gunman used, in unrestricted public areas. There’s also no background check requirement for private sales and no magazine capacity restriction.
From the age of 18, people may purchase a long arm.
From Sept. 1, it will be even easier to carry guns in Texas churches, schools, apartment buildings and disaster zones.
The bills were passed during the 2019 meeting of the Texas Legislature in May, and approved by Gov. Greg Abbott in June. Abbott, notably, has a perfect score from the National Rifle Association.
They will loosen what were already lenient state restrictions on gun carrying and ownership.
Under the new legislation, Texas will have fewer gun-free zones.
Landlords will have no power to prevent tenants or their guests from carrying a firearm. Churches, synagogues and other places of religious worship will be removed from the list of prohibited locations for carrying a firearm. The cap on the number of armed marshals allowed at each public school campus will be removed.
These changes were passed after mass shootings at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in 2017 (where 25 churchgoers, including a pregnant woman, and the shooter died) and Santa Fe High School in 2018 (which killed 10 people).
Ironically, the law pertaining to places of worship was actually designed in response to the First Baptist Church shooting. The Texas Legislature passed the measure to make it easier for churchgoers to carry guns. However, if a place of worship issues an oral or written notice, they may ban weapons from the property.
Following the school shooting last year, Abbott asked the Legislature, albeit halfheartedly, to consider a “red flag” law, which would enable people who saw warning signs (a.k.a. red flags) to seek a court order to temporarily prevent an individual’s access to firearms. No such law was passed, and a proposal to close the gun show loophole was also declined.
According to a Dallas News report from June, the Texas regional NRA lobbyist Tara Mica said it had been a “highly successful” year.
“When you get 10 pro-Second Amendment bills to the governor and he signs them all, I would rank it up there with one of the most successful sessions we’ve had since I’ve been doing this,” Mica said.
None of the 10 bills passed would have had any direct effects to prevent the El Paso tragedy.