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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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.
Giga Texas, the massive Tesla factory in southeast Travis County is getting even bigger.
The company filed with the city of Austin this week to expand its headquarters with a new 500,000-square-foot building. The permit application notes “GA 2 and 3 expansion,” which indicates the company will make two general assembly lines in the building.
More details about the plans for the building are unclear. The gigafactory has been focused on Model Y production since it opened in April, but the company is also aiming for Cybertruck production to kick off in mid-2023.
While there is room for expansion on the 3.3 square miles of land Tesla has, this move comes after CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments about the state of the economy and its impact on Tesla.
In a May interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Musk said the gigafactories in Berlin and Austin are “gigantic money furnaces” and said Giga Texas had manufactured only a small number of cars.
And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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