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Texas eliminates gun permit requirement just two years after mass shootings killed 30

September 2, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

Just two years after gunmen killed 30 people and injured many more in two back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, the state of Texas has loosened its firearm restrictions to allow any citizens who legally own a firearm to carry it openly, without a permit or training. 

The state joins 19 others in enacting what some call “constitutional carry,” which allows anyone over the age of 21 to openly carry a gun so long as they haven’t been convicted of a felony or domestic violence. 

The rule ended previous regulations that required a license, fingerprinting, four-hour training course, written exam, and shooting proficiency test in order to carry a gun in the state, whether concealed or open. 

Shortly after the shootings, the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, indicated that he was open to more gun control regulation. At the time, he recommended stronger enforcement of gun laws and larger penalties for those who broke them. 

The governor, however, did not mention any of those proposals in his State of the State address and advocated in this first legislative session since the shooting that lawmakers make Texas a “sanctuary state” for gun rights, to block officials from enforcing certain federal gun regulations; that law also went into effect Sept. 1. 

Texas law enforcement officials pushed back against the constitutional carry legislation, arguing that without permits they will be unable to determine who is illegally carrying a gun.

“The problem is that the bad guys want to carry guns too,” said Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. “There has to be a way of determining who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy.”

A number of other Texas laws that loosen gun restrictions went into effect on Sept. 1, including a law to prevent government entities from banning the sale or transportation of firearms or ammunition during a declared disaster or emergency; a law that allows some foster homes to keep guns and ammunition together in the same locked location; a law that exempts firearm suppressors made in Texas from federal regulation; and a law that allows firearms in certain areas of airports including baggage claim, parking areas, and pick-up and drop-off areas. 

“You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights, but today, I signed documents that instill freedom in the Lone Star State,” said Abbott as he signed the firearm bills into law in San Antonio. 

Texas Democrats, meanwhile, expressed outrage at the governor’s apparent change of heart around regulation. “Texas’s permit-less carry law strips away even the most basic gun safety precautions and is the ultimate slap in the face to the families, friends, and communities who have lost loved ones to gun violence,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “The Republicans’ blatant disregard for the lives of our children and other fellow Texans is outright appalling. They may have traded their souls to the gun lobby, but our lives here in Texas will never be for sale.”

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