Note: As mass shootings gain more media attention, more and more people are discussing gun control. While many seem to believe that registering all guns, requiring background checks for all purchases, and preventing identifiably dangerous people from purchasing guns are all good ideas, just as many seem to be afraid that any gun control law will mean the loss of all civilian guns. Organizations like the NRA play on these fears, telling people that guns are already too regulated and any further action will mean the loss of the much cherished 2nd Amendment (which is more for well-regulated militia than civilians, but that’s an argument for another day).
So I wanted to see what exactly the gun laws are in each state. Are guns too regulated? Do states with tight gun laws have more gun violence or less? What does it even take to get a gun nowadays? With these questions in mind, I’ll be starting a new weekly series – Gun Laws, State by State. I will try to document the most up-to-date gun laws in each state as well as provide facts on gun deaths in each state. Hopefully, by the time I get to the last state, we will all be better educated on gun control and gun deaths. If you have any additional information on the state in question, add it in the comments.
Previous post: Oregon
Texas is known as a gun-happy state and indeed has a good deal of revenue and support from the NRA (which also supports some of its politicians). People like to use it as the poster child for how lax gun laws work and why those liberal hippies from California don’t know what they’re talking about, but is its reputation as a gun toting, trigger-happy, gun-safe state warranted?
The truth is that Texas is a complicated state. On the one hand, it is pretty lax with gun laws, preventing local authorities from passing laws about a wide variety of subjects, including:
- Punishing someone who purchases a firearm for someone else who’s not allowed to have them
- Placing criminal penalties for selling a firearm without a proper background check
- Regulating unsafe firearms
- Prohibiting violent misdemeanor criminals from possessing guns
And yet, Texas does not have the most gun-related deaths per capita in the country. They rank 31st in gun-related deaths and 39th in crime gun exports. This despite the fact that a full 35.9% of people (over 9 million) possess firearms.
But here’s some more information to consider:
- In 2015, Texas had 19 mass shootings that killed 40 people and injured 79 more. That’s more than our three previous states.
- Despite its low per capita ranking, over 2800 people die from gun-related deaths every year in Texas – which is more than the three previous states
- While Texas may be 39th in crime gun exports, 40% of all Mexican crime guns that can be traced back to the US were originally sold in Texas. So, no, a gun used to kill someone in California probably isn’t from Texas, but the gun used to kill some American tourists in Mexico City might just be.
I’m not convinced that Texas is the best example for why gun laws don’t work. Yes, it seems to be pretty easy to get a gun in Texas, and, yes, you’re unlikely to be charged if you do something illegal revolving them (short of assault or murder, anyway), but 63% of murders involve a firearm, someone gets shot in Texas every three hours (on average), and the state is pumping guns into Mexico. Even when the state ranks lower per capita on gun related deaths, the number of people who die is still pretty high. So, yes, Texas respects your freedom to own, sell, and export guns, but that doesn’t necessarily seem to prevent gun-related deaths or mass shootings.
Here’s something else we should look into this year: On January 1, 2016, Texas enacted its open carry law, meaning that people are allowed to openly carry handguns (long guns were already allowed). You have to be licensed to open carry, and police are sort of discouraged from asking people to present their licenses. Will this make a dent in how many people die every year or how many mass shootings there are? Is this the only thing that was preventing Texas was truly being a gun-happy but ultimately gun-safe state? Only time will tell.