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Fronteras Looks At Guns: Legislation, Shootings And A Frontier History

Bob Daemmrich
Texas Tribune
Gun rights activists gather outside the Texas Capitol.

This week on Fronteras:

-- Texas lawmakers are fast-tracking laws that would allow licensed residents to carry guns more openly and on college campuses.

-- National attention on the police shooting deaths of young black and brown men prompts student lessons on how to be safe.

-- An Iraqi immigrant is shot and killed in Dallas. The killing raises disturbing questions.

-- The history of frontier guns and why people feel a connection with firearms.

Study Says Number Of U.S. Homes With Guns Has Declined

As Texas lawmakers back legislation that would allow guns to be carried more openly, a new study has some interesting findings. Despite news about gun violence and increased gun sales, the share of U.S. households with guns has actually declined since the early 1970s — 50 percent had guns then, compared to 34 percent in 2012. 

The University of Chicago survey says the drop includes southern and western mountain states, where gun ownership is often viewed as a constitutional right.

The study’s director says two patterns may explain the lower number of homes with guns: Fewer Americans hunt and there has been a decrease in violent crime. 

Texas Lawmakers Fast-Track Legislation To Expand Gun-Carrying Rights

In Texas, conservative state lawmakers are fast-tracking a proposal that would allow citizens with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons openly. A second measure, if passed, would allow concealed handguns on college campuses.

Texas Public Radio’s Ryan Poppe reports the legislation came up two years ago and failed.  But newly elected conservatives including Governor Greg Abbott campaigned in support of expanding the carrying rights of gun owners. 


Now here’s something interesting we saw in a University of Texas poll published several weeks ago. While most Texans support the right to carry licensed guns in public, they don’t want to see them. About 47 percent of those polled said they were fine with concealed handguns on college campuses, but 68 percent said they shouldn’t be carried publicly or if they were, they should be concealed.

All-Boys School Teaches Students How to Interact with Police

Authorities are investigating the recent deaths of two unarmed Mexican immigrants who lost their lives at the hands of the police — one in Texas, the other in Washington state. In addition, the police killed an unarmed, young, black man in Wisconsin last week. Deadly interactions between the police and minorities have sparked concerns and protests around the country over the past year.

In Austin, those deaths have compelled a principal to teach his middle school students how to interact with the authorities, and in particular, with the police. KUT’s Kate McGee interviewed the principal, school district police chief, one student and his mother for this story.


Gunfire Kills Iraqi Immigrant Taking Pictures of Snow

Last week’s mysterious shooting death of an immigrant who arrived from Iraq in February has focused international attention on the Northeast Dallas neighborhood where he was staying.

Ahmed Al-Jumaili was outside with his wife and brother-in-law, taking photos of his first snowfall when he was shot. 

On Friday, the Associated Press reported police have a 17-year-old suspect in custody. They do not believe the murder was motivated by the victim’s ethnicity.  Police say the suspect claimed he was looking for whoever shot at his girlfriend's home when he randomly came upon the victim and opened fire.  KERA’s Stella Chavez reports neighbors are uneasy.


Tr​acing The American Connection To Firearms

An exhibit of early American guns at the Alamo tells the story of frontier firearms- how they evolved from single-shot Flintlocks in 1836 at the siege of the Alamo, to modern weapons just 40 years later.

Shelley Kofler reports the Texas battle for independence provided a necessary market for firearms manufacturer Samuel Colt as he improved the accuracy and reliability of firearms.  Colt developed breakthrough weapons that still hold importance today.


The exhibit, "Firearms of the Texas Frontier," is open to the public and free of charge through April 15, 2015.

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.