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New Laws In Texas Ease Gun Restrictions


There was another mass shooting in Texas over the weekend. At least seven people were killed. More than 20 were wounded. And the day after it happened, a new set of laws went into effect in Texas - laws that loosen restrictions on gun ownership. The state's Republican governor, Greg Abbott, says strengthening Second Amendment rights is a way to prevent gun violence.

Researcher Lisa Dunn has been following gun legislation in Texas for Guns & America, a public media reporting project, and she joins us now. Welcome.

LISA DUNN: Thank you.

CHANG: So can you start us off by just telling us what these new gun laws do?

DUNN: A number of these address areas in existing Texas law where there were already statutes that limited firearm access or carrying guns in certain places. So for example, now there's a new law that allows Texans to carry guns into places of worship and weapons to be carried during a time of state-declared disaster. So you can now carry a gun without a permit during that kind of a situation. Also...

CHANG: Like there's a hurricane or something.

DUNN: Correct. And also, guns in schools and on school grounds - there are two new laws that prohibit schools from banning gun owners from keeping their guns and ammunition in their cars in the parking lots at schools. There are a couple of new laws that concern guns in apartments. These new laws say that if you're a landlord, you can't ban a renter from owning a gun or keeping a gun on your property. Those are just some of the few new laws that went into effect yesterday.

CHANG: And just to be clear, these new laws - they were passed in May and June, right? So this was well before the shooting in El Paso and this latest shooting in Midland and Odessa.

DUNN: That's correct.

CHANG: Do you think what's happened in August could lead some Texas lawmakers to try to roll back any of these new laws?

DUNN: Well, there's certainly that possibility. I mean, if you recall a year ago, following a tragic shooting at the Santa Fe High School...

CHANG: Yeah.

DUNN: ...There was a pretty large public outcry and pressure to respond and possibly change laws. And Governor Abbott did convene at that time a number of constituencies. And what ended up happening was when the Legislature convened, a number of those gun control suggestions - they ended up falling by the wayside. Some of them just never made it out of committee. And what we ended up being left with was what you saw go into effect yesterday, which was a number of gun expansion laws and expanding gun rights.

CHANG: I see.

DUNN: If you look at public opinion polling - and of course, that's kind of fraught - but you know, in the state of Texas, only about half people polled by a UT Austin poll that came out in February thought that gun control laws should be more strict. A strong 30% thought they should be left as they are. And when it comes to school shootings, for example, 63% of Texas thought that poor enforcement of existing gun laws was really to blame for these kinds of shootings.

However, red flag laws do seem to have support, as they do nationally. More than 70% of people in Texas, according to this poll, support a red flag law.

CHANG: That's interesting. Have we seen any new polling out of Texas after the El Paso shooting?

DUNN: Not that I'm aware of.


DUNN: And I've been looking and searching around for that. But hopefully, we'll see some of that soon because, sure, it's entirely possible that public opinion changes. As people may know, in Florida, that certainly happened after Parkland, and that was a very red, Republican-led state...

CHANG: Right.

DUNN: ...Republican-majority state. And they ended up passing a spate of new gun laws following that shooting. So it's not that it's impossible for a state like Texas, but there aren't too many examples of that.

CHANG: Lisa Dunn is research editor at Guns & America, a public media reporting project covering the role of guns in American life. Thanks very much for joining us today.

DUNN: Sure. Thank you.

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