New Texas Gun Laws Expanding Rights to Carry Went Into Effect One Day After Odessa Shooting

New Texas Gun Laws Expanding Rights to Carry Went Into Effect One Day After Odessa Shooting

The laws allow Texans to carry guns into houses of worship unless explicitly banned and clear gunowners to carry firearms on their person for a full week after a natural disaster is declared.

Just one day after a highway shooting claimed eight lives in Odessa, Texas, new gun laws went into effect that expand the ability of Texans to carry weapons in houses of worship and in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters.

Lawmakers passed about 820 bills earlier this year during the Texas legislative session, and they went into effect on Sept. 1. Thanks to House Bill 1177, residents who are already cleared to legally own a handgun will be able to carry it with them for a full week after a natural disaster is declared by the state.

Outside of that time span, only those with a specific license requiring firearms training and a background training can legally carry a gun at all times, The Dallas Morning News reported.

In addition, Texans will be allowed to carry guns into houses of worship unless faith leadership expressly forbid the practice, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did last month. The law came about as part of the state’s response to the 2017 mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs that killed 26 parishioners.

State Senator Donna Campbell, a Republican who filed the bill, said in a recent statement that the law does not restrict the rights of churches to prohibit weapons on their premises. Instead, Senate Bill 535 aims to reduce penalties for licensed citizens who unknowingly carry in prohibited areas, she said.

“It also increases the penalty for armed individuals who are told to leave certain premises where weapons are prohibited and fail to depart,” Campbell said, according to WFAA 8 News.

The Texas legislature also passed a law that lifts a limit on the number of trained employees, which the state calls “school marshals,” who can carry guns at K-12 schools. That program was created in 2013 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Following the tragic shootings in El Paso a month ago and now the killing of at least eight people in Odessa last weekend, the state government looks poised again to implement new policies meant to curb gun violence.

Last month, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott established the Texas Safety Commission to come up with recommendations to address mass shootings in the state, and tweeted Monday night that “we’re working on a legislative package right now.” However, the Texas legislature only meets every two years, and already finished out its session earlier this year. Abbott has not yet indicated that he will call a special session, as he did in 2017.

The mayor of Odessa, David Turner, said on Tuesday that “one thing is not going to fix” the problems behind mass shootings and widespread gun violence.

“We need stronger mental health laws,” Turner told The Texas Standard. “I think there were red flags for this gentleman, or this person. As municipalities and as a state, we're very limited on what we can do when somebody shows that they are maybe spiraling down or they may have some mental issues. You can hold them for maybe 24 hours, 48 hours, but then you have to release them. That is something that is going to have to be addressed.”

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