Gun control advocates say new permitless carry law could endanger Texans, and some constitutionalists agree
Just over three months after nearly two dozen gun laws were signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, those often controversial amendments are set to go into place today.
The session's flagship gun bill allows Texans to carry handguns without a permit effective Wednesday. Called "permitless carry" by some and "constitutional carry" by others, the law has been deemed Wild West-esque and unsafe by police organizations and some public figures but has been touted as a constitutional right by GOP lawmakers.
"You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights," Abbott said as he signed the bill. "But today I signed documents that instilled freedom in the Lone Star State."
Welcome to TEXAS — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.
The seven laws I signed yesterday protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and ensure that Texas remains a bastion of freedom. pic.twitter.com/juSjU00yXN
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 18, 2021
With the law in place, anyone 21 and older without a previous felony conviction or other legal restrictions will be able to carry a handgun. The Lone Star State, which previously required at least four hours of firearm training before receiving a permit, will join 19 other states that allow permitless carry.
Mat Unruh, owner and instructor at Liberty Hill gun and ammo store Round 2 Brass, said he knows some gun license instructors have decided not to renew their license to instruct as he and others prepare for smaller class sizes come Sept. 1.
A constitutionalist who advocates for second amendment rights, Unruh still believes that permitless carry could cause unnecessary danger for both gun owners who don't know Texas' gun laws and the general public.
"I'm a constitutionalist, but at the same time, I'm also a safety-minded person and guns require safety, they require training," Unruh said. "We need to know what we're doing and be proficient and be concise, because... when your gun comes out of your holster, your life is going to change forever."
Aside from learning to shoot a gun, Unruh said gun license training sessions are important because they teach Texans about what they can and can't do with a firearm—for instance, those without permits can't be within 1,000 feet of a school zone with a firearm, carry their firearm while out of state, or have any percentage of alcohol in their blood when carrying a gun.
"We're going to have a whole lot of people carrying firearms that maybe either don't know the law at all or think they do, which is probably more dangerous and more detrimental than actually not knowing anything," Unruh said.
The new law comes in the wake of 2019 mass shootings in El Paso and Midland, a mass shooting incident on Sixth Street in Austin and increased violent crime in the city, Texas and the nation as a whole. GOP lawmakers said they would change certain laws to promote safety, such as the lie and try bill which also goes into effect Sept. 1 that makes it a state crime to lie on a background check to obtain a firearm. But most of the 22 new gun laws going into effect Wednesday will aim to loosen gun restrictions, not tighten them.
Permitless carry does have some conditions, however:
- The law doesn't bar certain federal protocols already in place, like background checks on certain gun sales.
- It won't change much on private gun sales since Texas already doesn't require background checks on private purchases
- The law increases penalties for felons caught carrying guns.
- But it could make it harder to track felons buying guns in the first place.
Ari Frielich, state policy director for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said that permitless carry could drastically endanger Texas residents and even law enforcement officials.
"These lawmakers may simply prefer a society that includes zero safeguards to ensure people meet basic eligibility standards and receive basic training before they can carry weapons designed to take human life into public crowds," Freilich said. "The research is clear that flooding public spaces with more hidden loaded guns in more hands makes them less safe. It turns more arguments, road rage incidents, and fistfights into shootings, more injuries into burials, and it can create a civilian arms race in communities most impacted by violence."
Just as he hopes others will know to do, Unruh will tack on two new signs in front of his business come Sept. 1: a sign that reminds customers that the law is in effect, and a 30.05 sign, which will ban those without permits from carrying a gun in his store.
"People ask about it, which I love because it gives us an opportunity to have conversations," Unruh said. "It's not trying to restrict people's rights or anything, it's a safety thing."
Unruh hopes that business owners know to update their signage if they're uncomfortable with new gun laws. His biggest advice to constitutional carry activists, opponents and Texas residents as a whole is to stay informed, check the state's newest gun laws and continue to practice gun safety regardless of permit status.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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