The abandonment of permits and training may come at a cost
On June 16th Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1927 which eliminates the requirement for residents of the state to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing one already. They're also not required to have received any training in the safe or legal handling of a firearm.
The move makes it easier to carry a handgun in the state than it is to drive a car - sobering news for Texans hoping to live in safety.
Abbott was predictably vocal about announcing his signing of the bill on Twitter:
Hailing the legislation as protecting constitutional rights to carry arms, he conveniently ignored the safety concerns that many of his citizens and political opponents feel outweigh such reckless legislation. Even his Tweet above focuses on the "law-abiding citizens", not those who are most likely to abuse or benefit from relaxed controls.
Commenting on the bill, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso expressed her outrage as follows:
"The bill will cause more violence and loss. Despite overwhelming support for common-sense gun violence prevention legislation like universal background checks, Texas Republicans, led by a cowardly governor, are more interested in groveling for the gun lobby’s attention than they are in preventing gun violence and honoring victims and survivors in El Paso and across Texas."
Signing bills alone won't bring about change
Seeking re-election in 2022, Abbott seems to have decided to sign every bill possible that he feels will win him favor with the state GOP. In recent weeks he's gone to lengths to endorse a project to build a new wall along the state's border with Mexico, even though he's since indicated that it would rely on donations from Texans to meet the cost of building it.
More recently, he signed a watered down bill to broaden access to medical marijuana for certain clinical conditions - but only at a diluted level of concentration, while also stopping short of full decriminalization of the drug.
The sense coming from the state legislature is that they seem happy to approve any number of bills that might win them favor with voters, without fully considering the societal impacts of the new laws.
The risks of relaxed gun control laws
Before the bill was signed, Texans generally needed to be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. They also had to submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test. All such measures will no longer be necessary after September 1st.
Controversially, while the bill will appeal to lobbyists and those who fear the loss or even the minimal compromise of their constitutional rights, the majority of Texans don't support the carrying of handguns without a permit according to a recent survey by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.
Firearm safety in Texas
House Bill 1927 will do little to reduce the instance of gun-related crime in the state, and gun control advocates are disappointed that it will make it significantly easier to carry firearms after repeated instances of gun violence in Texas - the 2019 massacres in El Paso and Midland-Odessa that left 30 people dead are still fresh in the minds of many who care more for safety than the right to bear arms.
The recent spate of accidental shootings and gun-related accidents in Texan cities like Houston are the other kinds of incidents that could conceivably become even more common in the wake of loosened gun-control.
A 2016 study (back when permits were required for the carrying of handguns in the state) showed that Texas already had the highest number of gun related deaths out of all 50 states with 3353 deaths and 12.1 firearm deaths per 100,000 people. Are such statistics likely to improve with the removal of permits or obligatory training for gun users?
Texans must surely hope that the measures signed into law by Governor Abbott don't lead to greater instances of firearm related deaths. What price is reasonable to put on freedom to do whatever you want?
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