It’s not guns that shoot people. People shoot guns.
Gun violence has always been an ethical dilemma globally, especially in the United States. An estimated 22,138 firearm-related deaths occurred in 2022, excluding suicide. In 2021, according to data provided by the CDC, 48,000 deaths occurred due to firearm-related deaths, suicide, and homicide.
In addition, the suicide rate among Asians and Latinos increased by 125%, resulting in an exponential increase in firearm-related deaths. Although many states have experienced a massive increase in gun violence and gun-related deaths, Texas has seen a particularly spine-chilling surge in such incidents. According to the Gun Violence Archive, mass shootings increased 62.5% between 2021 and 2022 in the Lone Star State.
The Open Carry Law
In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott passed the Open Carry Law which allowed any individual with a Texas License to Carry to be able to openly carry a handgun in a holster and carry rifles openly. The Open Carry Law created conflict and confusion among Texas residents, law enforcement, and government entities. The main reason for the confusion for law enforcement and Texas residents included trouble identifying those who openly carried a firearm as a threat, criminal, or intending to harm. Secondly, it stirred up fear among communities in Texas due to the nature and context of firearms and the probability of a mass shooting taking place.
However, the Open Carry Bill did more than provide freedom to Texas gun owners; it also heightened the potential danger to the public safety of Texans, invigorated cults and hate groups, and caused more gun violence and gun-related crime. Soon after, a plethora of mass shootings took place at schools and public institutions: not because of guns, but the people who own them and the law which allowed them to do so.
Since Greg Abbot became the governor of Texas, gun-related deaths have increased by 44%. 80% of homicides were committed with a firearm in Texas in 2020. Consequently, 4,613 gun-related deaths occurred in Texas in 2021.
A predominant cause for the gun violence increase in Texas
A primary reason for the startling increase in gun violence and mass shootings in Texas is due to the Permitless Carry Bill, passed Sept. 1, 2021, and signed into law by Gov. Abbott. Before the Permitless Carry Bill passed, a Texas resident needed a Texas License to Carry (LTC) to carry a handgun. The minimum age was set at 21. But, after the permitless carry law was passed, anyone 21 years of age or older could carry a handgun without an LTC.
Though anyone 21 or over can carry a handgun in Texas, there are restrictions set in place for individuals convicted of a felony, people with mental disabilities, and those under federal restrictions. It is also illegal for individuals to carry a firearm at sporting events, federal institutions, restaurants, bars, and even corner stores. Furthermore, private institutions have the legal right to implement their own rules regarding firearms by requiring an LTC, prohibiting guns, and promoting the carry limitations they desire customers to follow.
However, the permitless carry bill has amplified the freedom of residents to obtain a handgun. Secondly, concerns exist about people who purchased a handgun after the permitless carry law was enacted and are untrained in how and when to use a firearm. Third, individuals who are uneducated on gun laws may incorrectly identify threats. Firearm education should cover topics like privately selling a firearm and, most importantly, the reason for carrying a firearm.
Many shooting incidents in Texas that resulted in death involved residents not licensed to carry a firearm. On Valentine’s Day, nine-year-old Arlene Alvarez was fatally shot in Houston, accidentally, by a robbery victim who mistakenly thought the perpetrator jumped into the car she was in.
Undoubtedly, the most important question from a reporter on the heinous act was, “Is Mr. Earls licensed to carry?” The lawyer of Mr. Earls, who was the shooter, stated, “He did not need one.” Moreover, it was stated the act was legally justifiable under Texas law.
Another gun-related incident involving a child occurred March 2 in Harris County, Texas, when a fight broke out and one Brittany Sanders shot at the car in which the juveniles were fleeing. A six-year-old in the vehicle was shot twice.
Both shooters in these situations were unlicensed. Furthermore, young children were shot resulting in one death and severe injury from a firearm. According to The Center for American Progress, 372 children die each year from gun-related death in Texas. As a Texas resident, the thought of innocent children dying by guns is baffling and heartbreaking.
The slippery slope of shooting a fleeing criminal
In Texas, one can protect themselves by force if they are robbed, during a home invasion or to prevent arson. One rule that applies is an individual cannot shoot a fleeing criminal because they no longer pose a threat. The purpose of this rule is to keep individual(s) from injuring or killing someone if their life is no longer in danger.
Assessing both firearm incidents discussed in the article, neither person was justified to shoot. With both shooters unlicensed to carry, one could further conclude they may not know or understand the laws associated with firearms. But, if gun laws in Texas were stricter and more ethical, much of the gun violence could be avoided.
The purpose of carrying a firearm
Although there are several reasons to own guns, when it comes to one’s safety or their family’s safety, a gun should only be used for self-defense. Additionally, In the Texas, Penal Code chapter nine explicitly states the general provisions regarding justifiable force which correlate to carry a firearm. The purpose of carrying a firearm deters harm, gives individuals an amplified sense of safety, and provide individuals with the opportunity to defend themselves when peacekeepers (police) cannot help or can help in time. Moreover, the Second Amendment allows Americans the “right to keep and bear arms” and lawfully use that firearm for traditional purposes implicitly and explicitly express by law.
In the two incidents stated above the use of a firearm was not justifiable by law, improperly used and innocent people were harmed and injured. In both incidents the criminals or parties were fleeing, neither shooter had an LTC and the consequences of these firearms being improperly children were killed and fatally injured. Although the shooters had the “right . . . to bear Arms”, shooting the perpetrators was improper because the criminals or parties no longer posed a threat. Through a critical lens, these individuals did not shoot their guns in self-defense but more so in retaliation. In all cases of self-defense, it is justifiable, ethical, and moral by law furthermore, the purpose of having a firearm is to defend one’s family and self when harm and injury are truly at risk.
The loose language associated with gun laws and the permitless carry law in Texas creates a narrative that anyone can have a gun. And if they feel the need to use a firearm, they rightfully have the option of doing so. But that is not the case. We should be concerned when unlicensed individuals lack the proper knowledge of gun safety, gun laws, and, most importantly, what is justifiable.
The proper approach to reduce gun violence in Texas is to create and implement stricter gun laws and tighten the requirements to obtain a firearm. If not consequently, the continual misuse of firearms will cause more innocent lives to be lost.
Edited by: Steven London & James Sutton