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New permitless carry law big blow to gun control in US Texas

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-06-21 10:11

People hold anti-Abbott signs during a "Moms Demand Action" protest in response to a new Texas gun law at Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston, Texas on June 17, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

HOUSTON - The US state of Texas may return to its Wild West past, or even worse, predicts an advocate for responsible gun ownership and opponent of the so-called permitless carry law signed by Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday, which allows Texans to carry handguns without a license or training starting Sept 1.

"There weren't automatic weapons or 100-round magazine capacities in the guns 100 years ago," said Gyl Switzer, director of Texas Gun Sense, a nonprofit group of more than 7,000 mostly gun owners who lobby for improved methods of gun control.

The permitless carry law isn't within Switzer's ideas of ensuring responsible firearm safety, as indicated by Texas Gun Sense's press release Wednesday within an hour of Abbott's fulfillment of his promise to sign the Republican-backed legislation.

"We are very concerned and disgusted that Governor Abbott has signed HB (House Bill) 1927 today while Texans are still fighting for their lives in Austin area hospitals from the most recent of Texas mass shootings," the release stated. "(The bill) allows the permitless carry of handguns in public by people with no background check, no training in laws and safety and no demonstrated proficiency in shooting."

Under the previous state law, Texans had to be licensed to carry, openly or concealed, a handgun. To obtain the handgun license, applicants had to submit their fingerprints, receive 4 to 6 hours of training, complete and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency exam.

As conferees were negotiating terms of the permitless carry bill, a shooter mere blocks away in downtown Austin, capital of Texas, killed at least one and injured 13 bystanders on June 12. Austin Mayor Steve Adler was reported by CNN as saying the uptick in gun violence locally was part of a disturbing rise in gun violence across the country.

"One thing is clear: Greater access to firearms does not equal greater public safety," the mayor said in a statement.

Texas Gun Sense and other gun control advocates have stated their objections of permitless carry after repeated mass shootings and other instances of violence involving firearms. On its web site, it posts statistics involving deaths, costs and other related factors of having a gun.

In 2019 in Texas, according to this site, there were 3,683 gun-related deaths. Included in that toll were dead from mass shootings in El Paso and in Midland-Odessa, where 22 and 7 people were killed respectively.

In the prior year, firearms were used by a male partner to murder 174 women, making women 24 percent more likely to be murdered by a gun in Texas than women in other states. Also in 2018, 64 percent of self-inflicted deaths and 73 percent of military veteran suicides in Texas involved firearms.

Despite a poll by The University of Texas and The Texas Tribune showing a solid majority of Texans are in favor of greater gun control measures and oppose permitless carry in particular and after meeting with resistance from gun control enthusiasts and some law enforcement agencies, permitless carry proponents continued to lobby state legislators to pass the bill until finally gaining momentum and support.

Supporters of the permitless carry bill, which passed by the Texas House of Representatives before going to committee to iron out differences, pointed to at least 20 other states that have passed similar legislation to put such a law on their books.

While in committee, the bill proved contentious, with the bill's supporters calling out those who advocated amendments made largely to accommodate concerns of the state's law enforcement agencies. They worried it would endanger officers and make it easier for criminals to get guns.

Texas Senators then approved amendments barring permitless carry from any Texan convicted in past five years of making a terrorist threat, exhibiting deadly conduct, engaging in an assault that causes bodily injury or disorderly conduct with a firearm. However, the Texas House rejected the Senate's proposed amendments, sending the bill to negotiating committee.

The final compromise lawmakers reached behind closed doors kept intact a number of changes the Senate made to the House bill.

Switzer told Xinhua that her organization, like many gun control groups, will continue to fight for sensible gun laws and show support for background checks.

"There is 79 percent support for gun control measures throughout the state," Switzer said. "This legislature is so worried about challenges from the right, but ultimately, it will primarily be the voters who decide."

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