What's Next For Gun Law, Policy In Texas?
The Biden administration is pushing for gun control measures including an assault weapons ban and stronger background checks for gun purchases in the wake of mass shootings in Atlanta and Colorado less than a week apart that left 18 people dead.
In response, Texas GOP leadership doubled down on commitments to protect the state's gun owners. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott said it's imperative that lawmakers expand gun rights this legislative session because "they are gonna come to get your guns."
After the 2019 mass shootings in El Paso and Midland/Odessa, state leaders appeared more open to addressing concerns about laws that allow private gun sales between strangers without background checks. Now, under Biden's presidency and the political threat of seeming soft on crime, Abbott and other top Republicans have returned to full-fledged support for gun rights across the board.
The move is frustrating for gun-control advocates who had hoped for what they see as common-sense reforms in 2021, but gun rights groups are enthusiastic about efforts to defend Texas from what they see as federal attacks on their Second Amendment rights.
Large-scale shootings in public places fell sharply in 2020 during the pandemic, but mass shootings overall jumped by 50% nationally. Texas reported 34 mass shootings in 2020 that killed 37 and injured 124.
According to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive — which defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot or killed in a single incident, not including the shooter, regardless of setting — shows there have been 104 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2021.
And mass shootings comprise just a small fraction of gun deaths in the U.S. The FBI estimates firearms were used in 10,258 of the 13,927 homicides in 2019. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 23,941 people intentionally killed themselves with a gun that same year.
How have lawmakers and advocates on both sides responded to recent mass shootings and the overall rise in gun violence?
What guns-related legislation is being considered in Texas' current legislative session? Is there any room for compromise?
Will the state's GOP-controlled House and Senate expand protections for gun owners, like passing a bill to allow constitutional carry or making Texas a "Second Amendment Sanctuary State"? What about guns in schools?
What are the constitutional arguments for expanding or limiting Second Amendment rights? Is the Supreme Court likely to weigh in on these issues, and what impact could a SCOTUS decision have on state-level gun laws?
- Sami Sparber, reporting fellow for The Texas Tribune
- Sanford Levinson, professor of law and government at UT Austin
- Frances Schenkkan, board member for Texas Gun Sense
- Richard Briscoe, legislative director for Open Carry Texas
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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, March 31.