After multiple mass shootings in recent years, including two in just the past month, Texas has officially become America’s grand gun-control experiment.
As families and friends in Odessa bury loved ones after yet another mass shooting, a handful of Texas firearms-related laws went into effect last weekend. But it may not be exactly what you envision when thinking “gun control.”
New laws passed by the Texas Legislature in August will allow firearms in public places such as schools and churches. Foster homes and rental properties were also added to the armed-and-now-dangerous roster.
Will the presence of more guns result in less gun violence? It seems like a question that answers itself, much as asking, will increasing the number of cars on the road lead to fewer crashes?
But in Texas, nothing is quite a simple as it may seem, and there is a full menu of reasons:
Texas has, by far, the most registered firearms in the nation, including more than 1.3 million Texans with a state license to carry a firearm in public. As one might reasonably expect, Texas also has a lot of gun violence, more than 3,500 gun-related deaths in 2017.
Texas also leads the nation in the number of guns lost or stolen each year, and correspondingly, nearly half the guns involved in crimes in Mexico can be traced back to Texas owners.
That is not to imply that all gun deaths in Texas are the result of a mass shooting, although large public gatherings seem to have become the preferred target for shooters. Studies indicate a gun in the home doubles the risk of homicide, and triples the risk of suicide.
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We bring all this up because of back-to-back mass shootings in Texas cities, and because this nation is on track to surpass the 373 mass-shooting fatalities in 2018. So far this year, 335 have been shot to death and 240 wounded in 49 attacks — and as we all know, those numbers could have gone up since we wrote these words and this editorial went to press.
So, back to the original question about whether relaxing gun laws to put more defensive weaponry in public places will reduce gun violence.
Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell, who co-sponsored some of the aforementioned legislation, said in a statement last weekend, “We have learned many times over there is no such thing as a gun-free zone. Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what. It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm.”
That’s a fairly standard argument, and there is evidence that armed citizens have intervened to stop further bloodshed.
On the other side, Kris Brown, president of a gun violence prevention advocacy group, said, “Texas lawmakers … doubled down on an NRA-led agenda to encourage guns everywhere, no matter the risks and costs to safety.”
That, too, is a fairly standard response. Doesn’t it seem like we’ve come all this distance as a nation only to be opting to return to a more-violent past? Do average Americans really want to go to the mall or movie theater packing a handgun? If you grew up watching western movies, you remember the high-noon showdowns and shootouts.
It’s not a simple argument to settle, and the two sides continue to drift apart instead of meeting in the middle.
Is there an answer? What do you think?