A number of new laws designed to ease restrictions on firearms went into effect Sunday in Texas.
The laws passed in the 86th Texas Legislature in August, before a shooter killed seven people and wounded 22 others Saturday in rampage in Odessa and Midland, CNN and other outlets reported. Texas also saw a mass shooting in El Paso days after the votes were cast.
Texas already has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States. But there are now even fewer regulations on places of worship, school grounds and foster homes. The changes will also limit the state’s ability to charge Texas residents with a crime for carrying a handgun without a license while evacuating from a state or local disaster area.
In addition, House Bill 1387 will allow school districts to appoint more armed school marshals.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, long a staunch advocate of gun rights, defended the new laws Sunday at a press conference about law enforcement’s response to the shooting, Abbott argued that easing gun restrictions and preventing mass shootings aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Some of these laws were enacted to make our communities safer,” he said, pointing to one law, Texas House Bill 1387, which will allow schools to hire more armed security guards.
Abbott also argued against passing legislation that would limit access to assault rifles, saying that they would do nothing to prevent mass shootings like the one Saturday or in El Paso last month. He noted that the shooter who killed 10 people at a high school in a Houston suburb last May, for example, used a handgun.
Gun restrictions after Odessa-Midland
Other politicians, as well as pundits and media outlets have rushed to explain the tragedy through the lens of their preferred political narratives.
The central conflict, as usual following a mass shooting, has been whether more or less restrictions on gun ownership are the appropriate response.
Liberals, including the remaining Democratic presidential candidates, have renewed their calls for gun control.
“We do know that this is f—ed up. We know that this has to stop in our country,” he told a small crowd of supporters, earning cheers. He later repeated the line on CNN.
O’Rourke, who is trailing in the polls, also recalled that he recently promised that if elected president, he would “institute a mandatory buyback of every assault weapon in America.”
Fellow Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, have also endorsed buybacks, and other candidates have laid out their own plans for stricter gun control.
Meanwhile, conservatives have generally been just as forceful in denying that stricter gun laws are the solution, arguing that it takes a “good guy with a gun” to stop a shooter.
President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday that the West Texas shooting “really hasn’t changed anything” about how lawmakers are approaching gun control legislation. He also said that background checks would not have prevented recent mass shootings.
“Over the last five, six, or seven years, no matter how strong you need the background checks, it wouldn’t have stopped any of it,” he said.