Assault styled weapons are leaned and mounted on the pegboard wall at Nagel's Gun Shop.
Assault-style weapons are on display in 2018 at a San Antonio gun retailer. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

While two mass shootings over the weekend have renewed the gun control debate across the country, a spate of new gun laws will take effect next month in Texas that loosen restrictions on where guns are allowed.

During the 86th session of the Texas Legislature, lawmakers passed nine new rules governing firearms in a state that already has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States. Each of the new laws goes into effect on Sept. 1.

These include:

Under SB 535, firearms can be carried legally at any church, synagogue, or other established place of worship.

HB 302 prohibits landlords from restricting possession of firearms by residents or their guests. Likewise, SB 741 prohibits a property owners association from restricting the possession, transportation, or storage of a firearm or ammunition. The law also prohibits restrictions on the lawful discharge of a firearm.

HB 1143 allows licensed gun owners to store their handguns, firearms, and ammunition in private vehicles on school campuses as long as it is out of plain view.

HB 1177 gives people the right to carry a handgun without a license during declared state and local disasters. It also allows disaster shelters to admit evacuees with firearms.

Certain foster homes, under HB 2363, will be permitted to store firearms and ammunition together in a locked location. Previously, the law required storage in separate locked locations.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed each of these laws, which were backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), during the 2019 session. A June 17 statement from the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action on its website read, “Thank you to pro-Second Amendment leaders and lawmakers in the House and Senate for their work to ensure passage of these measures.”

State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) wrote a letter to the governor Sunday requesting a special session be called to address gun violence. Gutierrez wrote that Texas needs an “extreme protection order” which would allow for restricting an individual’s access to firearms if that person poses a danger to themselves or others and for limits on access to firearms for those who are specified in a protection order, especially in cases of domestic violence.

He also advocated for establishing a fund that would support investigating and monitoring white nationalist organizations and their members. “Texas is better than what we are witnessing, we must do better,” Gutierrez wrote.

Texas has no laws requiring gun owners or purchasers to obtain a license nor any law requiring a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals. The state allows carrying a concealed or visible handgun if the person is also carrying a valid handgun license.

During fiscal year 2018, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued 351,701 gun licenses. During the same period, 2,043 were denied, and 4,761 were suspended or revoked.

There are almost 1.4 million holders of active firearm licenses in Texas, where five of the 20 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred. The most recent rampage occurred when a gunman from the Dallas area opened fire at a busy Walmart in El Paso on Saturday morning, killing 22 and injuring 26. 

Following the incident, Texas Gun Sense released a statement that read, “Gun violence is a public health crisis in Texas. Texas Gun Sense advocates for commonsense evidence-based policies that reduce gun injuries and deaths. Every incident like the shooting in El Paso is an indication that action is needed now in communities across the state.”

On Monday, the Texas Gun Rights organization expressed not only sorrow over the shooting deaths in El Paso, calling it an act of evil, but also fear that the incident could lead to stricter gun control measures.

“Instead of ramming more deadly gun controls down our throats, politicians should be fighting for life-saving pro-gun reforms,” read the statement on its website. “Policies like eliminating so-called ‘gun free’ zones that turn law-abiding citizens into sitting ducks for killers in places they visit every day … As we take time to regroup for the impending onslaught on our Second Amendment rights, I ask that you pray.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.