How have Texas legislators failed at passing meaningful gun control measures for the state? In recent times, gun control legislation proposals have come and gone in rapid succession. Despite this, many of these different forms of gun control laws have failed in the Texas house and senate. The failure of the red flag laws in Texas in particular prove the need for gun control in the state. Texas’ gun laws have too often been inadequate in preventing violence in the state and therefore have failed at protecting Texans from gun violence.

Mass shootings have become par for the course for the country as every year we see a continuing increase in mass shootings. Texas, however, holds the record for the most number of deadliest mass shootings in the country. Texas has four of the ten most deadly mass shootings.1 Along with that, six of the top twenty most deadly mass shootings are in Texas compared to California, which has half that number. The six most deadly mass shootings in Texas in modern history are as follows: August  1, 1966 UT Tower shooting with eighteen dead; October 16, 1991 Luby’s shooting with twenty-four dead; November 5, 2009  Fort Hood shooting with fourteen dead; November 5, 2017 Sutherland Springs with twenty-seven dead; May 18, 2018 Santa Fe High School with ten dead; and finally August 3, 2019 El Paso Walmart with twenty-two dead.2

The El Paso Shooting Memorial | Courtesy of NBC News

Texas is a state known for its gun culture, and it is because of this gun culture that gun legislation in Texas inadequately addresses gun violence in the state. In October of 2017, Texas ranked the highest of any state with the most amount of licensed gun dealers.3 Journalist Tom Dart interviewed Texas resident Dan Golvach after the shooting in El Paso and despite stating that the shooting was a “moral disaster,” Golvach said, “We are Texas because of Guns.” The article continues as the CEO of the Houston-based company Tuffy Packs, which creates bulletproof inserts for backpacks, states that he supports raising the minimum age to twenty-one, but also says, “If I was a felon I could get a gun in downtown Houston tonight for $500.”4 The gun culture is not only among those who sell and buy guns, but also among the politicians of the state. After the shooting in El Paso, former congressman Beto O’Rourke endorsed a ban of certain military style weapons. He was quickly met with backlash as representative Briscoe Cain tweeted, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” The tweet was quickly removed as it violated the sites rules against threats of violence, but the damage was done. It is no wonder that if the state’s politicians feel emboldened enough to express their opinions against forms of gun control with violence towards those that support them, then the people of the state also must feel the same.5

News article on The UT mass shooting | Courtesy of the New York Daily News

After every large mass shooting in the country, state legislators are faced with the issue of reforming its gun laws, as media rages about gun control or violence due to violent video games, and Texas is no exception. Red flag laws are a type of gun control that was first used by the state of Connecticut in 1999. The premise of the law is simple: it allows the police or a family member to petition the court for a temporary removal of the firearms of a person who presents a danger to themselves or to others.6 Red flag laws have been passed in some of the country’s most prominent gun supporting states, such as Florida, but such laws continue to fail in the Texas legislature even when proposed by the governor himself. The fact is that current Texas laws make the red flag law implausible. The red flag law is essentially a protective order. Protective orders can be seen as a restraining order in domestic violence cases. Texas law already prohibits anyone under a protective order for domestic violence from owning a firearm, but the enforcement is where the problem lies. The law doesn’t state how guns should be removed or who should take them. These problems make legislators skeptical of creating another kind of protective order that essentially would have no teeth. This, however, is not the only reason legislators are skeptical. In March of 2018, Florida Governor signed into law a bill that gave police greater power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit. The NRA sued the state of Florida for violating the second and fourteenth amendments of the US Constitution. Interestingly enough, according to NPR journalist Samantha Raphelson, the NRA has spent decades pushing for legislation that stifles research and the spread of information on gun violence, and they have been successful. Congress passed a bill in March of 2018 that cut funding for research by 90%. In the article a Dr. Mark Rosenberg, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, states that “The NRA told everybody, ‘You either can do research or you can keep your guns. But if you let the research go forward, you will all lose all of your guns.'”7 Knowing the influence the NRA has over the state, as the Texas governor and many legislator are supporters of the organization, it is not surprising that there has not been greater push for the legislation.8

The Texas answer to gun violence has been to loosen gun laws, not increase them. For example, after the Sutherland Springs shooting in a Baptist Church, the Texas legislature passed a bill that would consider churches private property. This law allowed for armed members of the West Freeway Church of Christ to shoot and kill a gunman who open fired. Although this law seems effective in that one instance, the fact of the matter is that the gunman killed three people before being shot. Had the state had more efficient forms of gun control, it is possible that this man would not have been able to obtain a gun to kill those people.9

Law enforcement officials investigate a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 | NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texas has earned an F from the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in its laws by failing to protect its people. The fact of the matter is that current firearm laws in Texas are too lenient and have many loopholes allowing for almost anyone to obtain a firearm. In April of 2017, Texas led the nation in the most amount of registered weapons under the National Firearms Act.3 The National Firearms Act deals with machine guns, suppressors, and bombs. According to federal and state law, an individual over the age of eighteen may own an assault weapon after paying a tax and submitting an application that, in the state of Texas, does not require fingerprints and photos when bought under trusts and business entities.11 This loophole, like many others in the state, allows for people who are unfit to own a firearm to obtain one. Federal Law also prohibits addicts  and unlawful users from owning a firearm, and despite following this law, the state of Texas has no universal background checks or waiting periods for the purchase of a firearm.12 Therefore, the law has a very limited way of checking to make sure that a person can lawfully own a firearm. Along with no universal background checks, the state has no ban on assault-style weapons, such as an AK-47. In fact, the state of Texas also has no official age minimum, but does follow the federal law of an age minimum of eighteen, which is younger than the federal age minimum for alcohol and tobacco related products.13 This allowed twenty-year-old Patrick Crusius to buy an AK-47 variant, which he used in the El Paso shooting on August 3, 2019.

What comes next? If the state continues to follow in this path, we can expect to see more violence and continue to be the state with the most number of deadly mass shootings. In light of this information, it is clear to see the failure of the current laws to protect Texans. According to Professor Carl T. Bogus at Roger Williams, about 30% of Texas households have a gun compared to New York, which has about 11%; and research states that homicide rates in high gun states are triple those in low gun states.14 Gun Control is necessary in preventing gun violence. The easiest form of gun control is to raise the minimum age to twenty-one. This form of gun control has bipartisan support and could be implemented federally. Several other forms, such as background checks and assault weapon bans, along with bump stock bans, should also be considered.15 Loopholes and other laws should also be looked at and strengthened, such as the current protective order laws.

Shortly after August 3, 2019, representatives of El Paso in the house and senate of the state legislature presented House Bill 131 and Senate Bill 157 on gun control legislation, specifically focusing on Red Flag Laws as an option for the state. As expected, the state legislature whisked them away quickly and quietly. As a state, we must move forward from living in an undeniably toxic culture surrounding guns to a societal change that does not affect our rights as Americans, but protects the most vulnerable among us from life threatening violence. Without this change, more Texans and American people will be afraid of going to school, college campuses, lunch with friends, and even simply grocery shopping.

  1. Saeed Ahmed, “4 of the 10 deadliest Mass Shootings in Modern US History Have Taken Place in Texas,” CNN (Cable News Network, August 4, 2019),https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/03/us/texas-el-paso-walmart-shooting-among-deadliest-trnd/index.html).
  2. “Mass Shootings in the US Fast Facts,” CNN (Cable News Network, February 20, 2020), https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/19/us/mass-shootings-fast-facts/index.html).
  3. Michael Hogue and Karen Robinson-Jacobs, “Texas’ Gun Culture in Four Charts,” Dallas News (Dallas News, August 25, 2019), https://www.dallasnews.com/business/2017/11/06/texas-gun-culture-in-four-charts/).
  4. Tom Dart, “’We Are Texas Because of Guns’: El Paso Carnage Unlikely to Dent State’s Gun Culture,” The Guardian (The Guardian, August 9, 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/09/el-paso-shooting-texas-guns).
  5. Kayla Epstein Antonia Farzan, “’My AR Is Ready for You,’ Texas Republican Lawmaker Tells Beto O’Rourke over Mandatory Buybacks,” The Washington Post (WP Company, September 13, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/09/13/beto-orourke-roscoe-cain-death-threat-twitter/).
  6. Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2020, s.v. “Red Flag Laws,” by Eric C. Bullard.
  7. Samantha Raphelson, “How The NRA Worked To Stifle Gun Violence Research,” NPR (NPR, April 5, 2018), https://www.npr.org/2018/04/05/599773911/how-the-nra-worked-to-stifle-gun-violence-research).
  8. Steve Almasy, “NRA Sues Florida to Block Part of New Gun Law,” CNN (Cable News Network, March 10, 2018), https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/09/us/nra-sues-florida-gun-law/index.html).
  9. Jollie McCullough and Texas Tribune, “Will Texas Pass A ‘Red Flag’ Law To Remove Guns From People Who Are Deemed Dangerous?,” Houston Public Media, June 18, 2018, ” href=”https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2018/06/18/291461/will-texas-pass-a-red-flag-law-to-remove-guns-from-people-who-are-deemed-dangerous/)”>https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2018/06/18/291461/will-texas-pass-a-red-flag-law-to-remove-guns-from-people-who-are-deemed-dangerous/).
  10. Michael Hogue and Karen Robinson-Jacobs, “Texas’ Gun Culture in Four Charts,” Dallas News (Dallas News, August 25, 2019), https://www.dallasnews.com/business/2017/11/06/texas-gun-culture-in-four-charts/).
  11. Mark Anthony Correo, “4th Annual Firearms Law : What Every Texas Lawyer Needs to Know Course,” State Bar of Texas, 2015 ” href=”http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03837a&AN=SMU.b1770708&site=eds-live&scope=site”>http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03837a&AN=SMU.b1770708&site=eds-live&scope=site.
  12. Allen Halbrook et al., Texas Perspectives on Firearm Laws (Austin, TX: State Bar of Texas, 2015)).
  13. “Texas Gun Laws,” Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence (Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, December 12, 2019), https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/state-law/texas/)
  14. Carl Bogus, “How Gun Control Got Murdered,” The American Prospect, August 30, 2011, https://prospect.org/culture/gun-control-got-murdered/).
  15. Benjy Sarlin, “6 Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence and How They Work,” NBCNews.com (NBCUniversal News Group, March 6, 2018), https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/6-proposals-reduce-gun-violence-how-they-work-n851736).

50 Responses

  1. One major point that stood out for me while reading this article was the influence and power that the NRA possesses when it comes to local, state, and federal government officials. This organization has made it clear that the right to own a firearm is more important than human life. Gun violence is easily preventable with the right regulations in place and like the article mentioned with the proper enforcement.

  2. This article does very well of presenting the facts on the current state of gun control in Texas. There’s no question that the state of Texas is in dire need of gun law reform but as you mentioned, there are too many organizations that invest large sums of money to keep the laws as they are. I would like to think that the politicians actually want to bring about reform but many of them are financially supported by the NRA during their campaigns and that is why the interest of big corporations is taken into consideration before the interests of their constituents are even acknowledged. My only issue with the argument of this article is that gun violence was correlated to video games. While there is some research that backs this claim up, there is also research that proves this is not the case. I would say the main factor that causes this violence is the upbringing of the people committing these crimes. It’s the years of hatred that is taught by their parents that ultimately drives these kids to do horrendous things.

  3. “Gun culture” in Texas is, simply put, super weird, but this article does a really good job of outlining how and why Texas is failing to prevent mass shootings and write gun control policies. There really shouldn’t be mass shootings like this on a regular basis, and there shouldn’t be a need to manufacture bulletproof backpacks. State representatives are completely capable of writing laws that are specific enough to remedy the gun issue here, but I agree that- if they ever write an effective policy to prevent gun violence- the next step would be to enforce it.

  4. The issues of gun control have yet to been solved and I believe they will remain unsolved. The information of this article gives a great explanation on why there needs to be a change because numbers do not lie. No one law or laws will be able to change it because of the 2nd amendment. I’m on the side of gun control does not need to be regulated because its the people with the guns that do harm not the gun itself. Great article bringing up the issues of guns in in Texas.

  5. As a Texan resident, I have been aware of the minimal gun regulations in our red state. However, this article sheds light on specific gun control measures I had not yet heard of, in particular, Red Flag laws. There are reasonable grounds for such regulation; thus, it is a matter of politics and whether congresspersons are willing to subject themselves to the backlash, as did Beto O’Rourke. The examples of mass shootings are only those that have gained national attention, while there are instances on smaller scales where laws of the same nature would take effect and make an impact. Thus, by continued advocacy in protests, we can hope to see the necessity of these measures taken.

  6. The lack of power that we have as citizens when speaking up about gun control is terrifying. It truly does have effects on our mental health here in America. I remember one of the first mass shootings that I ever heard of growing up was the one that took place at a movie theater, and ever since then I have always gone into the cinema somewhat paranoid and planning my next move should an active shooter enter the room that we are in. Growing up in Texas, there was actually a student who brought guns to my high school campus and hid them, intending to harm everyone on campus. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but it is something that I think about fairly often. With this being said, I could only imagine how heavy actually being in a setting like that must be. We must do something about gun control in Texas, seeing as we are the worst state especially. It truly wracks my brain how every solution that we can pose seems to have a counter, sometimes I feel like this fear will not end anytime soon due to the failing actions and desires from our politicians.

  7. This article was very well written, and given the timing of its post, was posted at a very important time. While I do not believe that guns should be taken from owners, I do believe that there needs to be better regulations. It is very easy for anyone to get a gun and as seen through time, it does not always prove to have good results.

  8. Hi Sofia, you explained Texan gun culture extremely well. I always tell people that Texas lends itself to lax-gun laws because of its enormous size and abundance of rural areas (which one can argue is mainly for protection). There are at least some responsible gun owners out there who are, for example, retired veterans or police officers who use the shooting range to manage their PTSD.

    If we think about the way politics works as well, we can see why difficulties arise in passing legislation for gun-control. Representatives get elected by constituents and they have to adhere by what their constituents want/need. If the constituents of a lot of these districts are opposed to gun-control then the representatives will have to reflect these sentiments if they want to be re-elected. — Not to take away from the well-written post. Just a comment! Great work.

  9. This article clearly portrayed the severity of gun violence in Texas. I think it’s very important that you made the distinction that Texas has failed to pass those adequate and necessary gun control laws because of it’s prominent gun culture. Additionally, you clearly display Texas’ resistance by noting that even those existing gun control laws are not adequate in that they have too many loopholes i.e. how and who enforces them. I think the article could better portray its message if it also included an anecdote of someone who has directly been affected by gun control and was therefore motivated to advocate and make a change in legislation.

  10. The information presented in this article is well connected to the issues that we face today in our country. I enjoyed reading and learning about Red Flag laws and the background attitudes surrounding the position of states, such as Texas, for wanting to continue to have limited restrictions for citizens who wish to purchase a gun. The article highlighted that an eighteen-year-old can purchase assault-style weapons, but legally too young to purchase alcohol or tobacco. This has always been an issue that I also believe needs to be resolved. Our representatives need to take action against the lack of restrictions for gun laws, however, this is a complicated issue with regards to the 2nd amendment. The framers of the constitution lived in a very different time period when making that law apart of our principle guidelines for our new country. People and politicians need to understand and work towards how to adjust to what our country needs now in order to protect our people for the future.

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