Triumph in Texas: Gun Control or Gun Chaos in 2021?

I don’t think we need more gun control laws. (John Kennedy)

I don’t believe gun owners have rights. (Sarah Brady)

Texas: A Pushback on Gun Control 

The Texas legislature and its governor may have pushed their zeal for the 2nd Amendment too far, at least in the eyes of some people. The Republican-dominated Legislature approved a bill that was signed into law on 6.16.21 by Gov. Abbott which will allow residents to carry a handgun without a firearm license and without submitting to a background check. House Bill 1927 allows anyone over 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun as long as they are not prohibited from doing so because of felony criminal convictions.

The law, which would go into effect on September 1, 2021, would make Texas one of 20 states that allow its residents permitless carry of handguns. This new law comes on the heels of the mass shooting in Austin, the Texas’ state capitol, which left an innocent person dead and more than a dozen injured.  Representative Chris Turner, a Democrat who’s been a vocal opponent of the bill, pointed out to the Daily Mail that this is “the first legislative session since the August 2019 mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa that left 30 people dead and dozens more wounded, including two police officers.”

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What is the future of gun control? Source:

Turner lamented, ‘I can’t imagine a worse slap in the face to all those people who have advocated, to the victims and to the family of those victims.” Some members of the law enforcement community also oppose the bill.  Interim Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon stated his opinion about the struggle that police officers would face because they would not know if someone openly carrying a gun has gone through the normal hurdles of obtaining a gun license. “When you strip that away and take away those safeguards or guardrails, per se, it’s going to make it more difficult for officers to make those kinds of assumptions and judgments,’ he said.

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Crime Scene from Austin Mass Shooting Source:
Gun Control and Law Enforcement

And according to the fort-worth Star Telegram, the Fort Worth Police Department is opposed to HB 1927. Neil Noakes, Chief of the Fort Worth Police Department wrote a letter in April to Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), the Senate bill’s sponsor, stating: “The Fort Worth Police Department is opposed to HB 1927 and does not support any legislation that would allow the carrying of a handgun in a public place without a license or permit. Such action would remove crucial safeguards that are meant to protect Texans.” 

Gun Control Advocates

Opponents reference studies that say weak gun laws result in more gun violence and death. A US News article points out that “States with stronger gun laws experience lower rates of gun violence.” Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the organization that conducted the study, stated emphatically, “We’ve proven that lawmakers can save lives, reduce violence, and make their states safer by following a simple blueprint: pass gun violence prevention laws. Every year, our scorecard is a reminder to states that progress is possible, but also a reminder of the work we have left to accomplish.”

Gun Control: A Complex Issue 

However, it may not be as simplistic an issue as Thomas portrays it to be. A news report that used the same CDC data cited in the Giffords’ study and published by USA found “. . .several reasons besides gun laws that these states might have high rates of gun deaths (suicides included). Many of the states also have higher rates of poverty, lower educational attainment and perhaps more rural areas that make getting to a hospital in time to save someone’s life difficult.” 

Moreover, these studies establish correlation not causation. Citing the National Research Council (NRC), the Rand Corporation found that “existing research studies and data include a wealth of descriptive information on homicide, suicide, and firearms, but, because of the limitations of existing data and methods, do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide.”

Our understanding of gun violence is complicated by the fact that there is a complex interplay between gun ownership, gun violence, and violent crime in general. To this end, the authors of the NRC report make the following salient points, which show how complex the issue of gun ownership and gun crime really is: 

  • Policies that make the use of firearms during assaults more or less common could affect both firearm and overall murder rates because assaults involving weapons that are less lethal than firearms will result in fewer deaths (Cook, 1983). 
  • Policies that expand the number of gun owners or people carrying guns could deter violent crime if would-be attackers fear confrontations with armed victims (Kleck, 2009),
  • Policies that make it easier for criminals or suspected criminals to arm themselves could result in more officer-involved shootings if police officers expect most suspects to pose a threat of deadly force (Kivisto, Ray, and Phalen, 2017).

It gets even stickier because of the counterclaims regarding gun control. Here’s an example. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R, Texas) famously said about gun control that “every time … conceal-carry [gun laws] have been allowed the crime rate has gone down.”

The thing is, he is factually correct. But again, this is another example of correlation, not necessarily causation. Carlisle Moody, an economics professor at William & Mary College, attempts to tease apart the multiple factors related to gun violence, stating: “. . crime has indeed gone down in states with conceal-carry laws. On the other hand, if you are implying — and I think he [Gohmert] is — that concealed carry laws reduce crime, that’s a more complicated question.” And, in 2008, a Harvard Injury Control Research Center review of gun violence data broadly concluded “the changes have neither been highly beneficial nor highly detrimental.”

So, the debate about gun control rages on, each side citing what they believe to be definitive data. One thing is for sure, however, which is that Texas is moving full-steam ahead with a state-right stance.

On September 1, 2021, the same date that HB 1927 goes into effect, HB2622 will also become Texas law. Beyond limiting the interactions of Texas law enforcement officers with federal agents, the law would also withhold funding from people or agencies that “adopted a rule, order, ordinance, or policy under which the political subdivision requires the enforcement of any federal statute, order, rule, or regulation.” 

While it’s impossible to know the consequences of these bills with regard to crime and gun violence, one thing is certain: the debate about gun control will continue. 



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