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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Six days a week, thousands of onlookers tune in to live streams to watch the pros rake it all in at high-stakes poker tournaments. The big-name poker players aren't in Las Vegas or even Oklahoma's finest casinos—instead, they're where Texas Hold 'Em gets its name.
Gambling may be illegal in Texas, but over a hundred poker houses are using a loophole to open up shop across the state, especially in Austin and Dallas.
The classic poker game is finally getting played for real cash around the Lone Star State thanks to an exception in Texas' gambling ban that allows poker games to be played in private residences. Instead of taking a cut from the pot like traditional gambling ventures, private poker houses don't make money from the results of a game; instead, they get their revenue from membership and hourly fees.
It's a business strategy that's gone (mostly) unchallenged by Texas politicians, especially as the industry begins to heat up.
Austin may now have around 20 poker houses around town, but it wasn't long ago that one stood alone like a small town saloon. The city's premiere poker house, Texas Card House, was founded in 2015 and has since grown to include a YouTube channel with over 30,000 subscribers, a wide range of gameplay and regular visits from big-name poker gurus like Brad Owen and Doug Pope.
David Lagana, a content creator who has worked in college sports and Hollywood, was brought into the scene in May as the house's live streams began to blow up. He said the live streaming battleground is only beginning.
"The space is ever-growing," Lagana said. "It's been interesting to try and find a lane that everybody can succeed. It's all about finding something that people want to watch on a nightly basis."
Can Player BLUFF Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen on LIVE Stream?
Watch now - https://t.co/4Wt4s5Z0V7@TheBradOwen @andrewneeme pic.twitter.com/Yg4R0c0sj2
— Texas Card House (@texascardhouse) August 25, 2021
Carolyn Hapgood, who has worked for Texas Card House for three years, has made a name for herself as a live stream producer, dealer and player herself with the company. She's seen Texas Card House grow from a two-room card house to the most well-known poker venue in Austin with another branch in Dallas.
"It was a teeny tiny little house with five tables, and that was the first legal card house in the state," Hapgood said. "And since then it's blown up."
Texas Card House dealer Carolyn Hapgood has been working with Austin's premier poker house since 2018. (Texas Poker House Austin/Facebook)
From $100 pots to buy-ins of $15,000 or more, Texas Card House has it all, especially as in-state players learn more about the game. Hapgood said there isn't really a typical poker player at the house—instead, the poker table forms an "interesting little ecosystem" that includes college students, a 93-year old Vietnam War veteran, online gamblers, old-school players and everyone in between. The diversity at the table has been enhanced even further by COVID as people clamor to return to in-person events.
But Texas Card House no longer holds a "royal flush" in Austin's poker culture. The Lodge, based in Round Rock, is now expanding to over 60 tables, the largest in Texas, while Palms Social Club, owned by Texas Card Houses' original owner Sam Von Kennel, brought service staff and a refined atmosphere to the Austin scene.
Hapgood said the base of poker players is very large and continues to grow, forming a community as players form friendships on and off the table.
"My favorite part of the poker community is how much fun we have," Hapgood said. "You sit at a table with eight of your friends, everyone's kind of just having a good time. There's a lot of players who will, you know, call or text each other after they're done playing, and they end up inviting each other barbecues, and going out to dinner with their families and stuff like that... those are my favorite people to hang out with."
Getting involved in the poker scene is as easy as tuning into a live stream, and Lagana hopes to see more outsiders like himself get inspired by poker in the future.
"It's kind of like life," Lagana said. "Life isn't just one hand to play... you're only in control of sort of what's in your hand (and) you can't play the card that you weren't dealt with. So it's really been a fascinating life lesson for me."
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From four-time Grammy-nominee turned big-screen actor, Black Pumas frontman Eric Burton will debut in the sci-fi short film "Devexity," which is written, directed by and stars Austinites.
The film, brought to life by Austin-based filmmaker Luke Lidell, will premiere on Oct. 7 at the Native Hostel while Burton is in town for Austin City Limits Fest. Then, "Devexity" will head off to film festival screenings, according to a report by The Austin Chronicle.
Following Burton as the film's protagonist, named Jean, "Devexity" takes place across several different settings and surfaces an existential response from the watcher. Burton stars alongside fellow Austinites Ali Pentecost, Dominique Pitts and New Yorker Madison Murrah in the partially black-and-white film.
The film was shot over the course of four days in October 2020, which Lidell said was a challenge of "focus" and "trust" to create. With a variety of scenes and intertwining narratives, the film dives into the topic of virtual reality.
A musician in addition to a filmmaker, Lidell previously directed the film "Telekinetic" in 2018. The script for "Devexity" was written by Lidell with Burton in mind for the lead after meeting him during a music video project in 2017—Lidell said Burton helped him shape the characters along the way.
Now that the door has been opened for work between Burton and Lidell, you're likely to see the pair collaborate again—a Black Pumas documentary is being rumored.
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The University of Texas at Austin welcomed more incoming freshmen than ever before, with 9,060 new Longhorns, thanks to the rise of on-time graduations allowing the university to admit more undergraduates.
The count was taken on the 12th day of class, Sept. 10, beating out the previous high of 8,960 from 2018. The new class is also setting records for its diversity, citing a rise of Black, Hispanic and Asian undergrads.
@UTAustin is serving more first-generation and historically underrepresented groups than ever, while raising grad rates for all, including our growing population of Pell-eligible students pic.twitter.com/qYQPEfUXG4
— Jay Hartzell (@JCHartzell) September 20, 2021
"People all across the UT community have been working hard to recruit, attract, retain and support even more talented and diverse students, staff members and faculty members who can change the world," UT President Jay Hartzell said. "I'm proud that our combined enrollment of historically underrepresented groups has reached record levels for the second year in a row."
A 3% enrollment rise can be attributed to UT's all-time high graduation rates: the four-year graduation rate rose from 72.2% to 72.7%, while the six-year student rate rose from 87.6% to 87.7%.
Of the 51,992 students on UT's campus, 13,366, or 29.6%, come from historically underrepresented groups—including Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander—one of the highest totals out of the Association of American Universities and a record-breaking percentage.
With this new class, the university is also serving more first-generation students and Hispanic students than ever before, making up 22.9% and 27.1% of the undergrad student body, respectively. Last year, UT hit a quota of 25% Hispanic students to qualify as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and received the Seal of Excelencia for its commitment to the success of Latin students.
Black students fell just a bit, from 5.3% to 5.2% university-wide, though the actual enrollment amount is up, from 2,193 to 2,219.
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