In Texas, Lenient Gun Laws Are Woven Into the Fabric of the State

Texas has long had some of the least-restrictive gun laws in the United States, priding itself as a state with responsible gun owners — more than a million — even with its recent history of mass shootings.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a wide-ranging law in 2021 that ended the requirement for Texans to obtain a license to carry handguns, allowing virtually anyone over the age of 21 to carry one. The landmark law made the state one of the largest to adopt a “constitutional carry” law that basically eliminates most restrictions on the ability to carry handguns.

Mr. Abbott described the bill last year as “the strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history.”

It is unclear what type of weapon or weapons that the gunman, whom the authorities identified as an 18-year-old, were used in the Uvalde shooting.

Gun rights advocates at the time said the law would encourage similar conservative legislation in other states. Critics, including some law enforcement officers, said it was a dangerous retreat from gun control amid a recent surge in gun violence.

The law also removed the requirement that handguns be kept in a belt or a shoulder harness, but they still must be in a holster.

Texas has long been a bellwether of gun rights legislation, with residents being allowed to carry rifles in public without a permit and guns being allowed on college campuses, a law the state passed in 2015.

The passages of those laws have been underscored by mass shootings in the state in recent years, including in El Paso and near Odessa.

The substantial easing of gun licensing requirements did not appear to have strong public support last year. A poll conducted in 2021 by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune showed that nearly 60 percent of voters said adults should not be allowed to carry a gun without a permit or license.

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