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Relaxed Gun Laws Take Effect In Rattled Texas

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The death toll from the mass shooting in West Texas yesterday has risen to seven, with 18 others injured. And this comes just weeks after the El Paso shooting last month which left 22 people dead. Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference this afternoon and said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

GREG ABBOTT: We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals like the killer here in Odessa while also ensuring that we safeguard Second Amendment rights.

MARTIN: As the governor spoke of the need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, as he said, a new set of gun laws takes effect today, September 1, which will relax some existing gun laws in the state. Joining us to talk about this is journalist Alain Stephens. He reports for The Trace. That's a nonprofit publication that covers guns in America. I do want to mention he's also a former member of the military, so he's familiar with the subject. Alain, thank you so much for talking with us.

ALAIN STEPHENS: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So I think that many people know that Texas has a very expansive view of gun rights already. There are more than 1.2 million residents who are active holders of concealed handgun permits. And as I understand it, the state has no laws regulating the possession of long guns other than the existing federal restrictions. So what has changed? What are some of these new laws taking effect in Texas today?

STEPHENS: These laws that are essentially taking place are pretty much in tempo with recent laws that we've seen in Texas as well, which is essentially kind of opening up the doors on how people with licenses or without licenses - where and how they can carry their weapons throughout the state. So for instance, you see, in some of these new laws that have been passed, things about landlords and homeowners associations who previously could say, hey, we don't want you to have a weapon within this. Well, that now is essentially been rolled back.

And we also see a law with school marshals which essentially allows schools to have more armed teachers. The original law said that there could be one armed teacher for every 200 students. Now with this most recent law, that's going to be 100 students. And that's, like, a couple of them. I think there's about nine laws that are going into effect starting now.

MARTIN: What was the impetus for all of these? Do you know?

STEPHENS: The last couple of years, we saw these kind of reductions going on into law. So we saw that the concealed handgun license switched to a license to carry which allows people to openly carry. We also saw a campus carry pass in legislative sessions in years prior. In 2018, essentially, Greg Abbott had kind of doubled down on his stance with all of these shootings and stuff that were going on. He said this at the NRA convention where he was like, the answer to gun violence is to have more armed citizens.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, what are you seeing in terms of reaction to this latest shooting, as we said, comes only, you know, four weeks and a day after a mass shooting in El Paso? What are you seeing in terms of the discussion among political leaders and citizens in Texas around this?

STEPHENS: I see a lot of kind of doubling down on exactly what Greg Abbott was talking about of being - listen, we need more people with guns. We need more support for law enforcement. We need to be more proactive as far as being on the lookout for these types of shooters but very little in anything of kind of tangible gun control laws.

MARTIN: That's Alain Stephens. He's a journalist at The Trace. That's a nonprofit publication that covers guns and gun violence in America. Alain, thanks so much for talking to us.

STEPHENS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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