The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is arguably one of the most polarizing subjects in America today, as the rise in number of public mass shootings continues and our country topping any other country in the world for this type of violence. Studies indicate that the occurrence of public mass shootings has tripled since 2011, and guns remain the number one method of American homicides overall. But the Second Amendment is not entirely without regulation- There have been 11 acts created since 1934 that control the manufacture, transfer, and distribution of firearms at a federal level. These acts range from prohibition of guns in school zones to the requirement of background checks on most gun purchases.
In addition to federal rules, individual states have their own regulations… and almost no place has laws as lax as Texas. This state allows for what is called “open-carry”, meaning a handgun can be carried openly as long as it is in a shoulder or belt holster. The law even extends to some churches, with worshippers open-carrying during services in certain areas of the state. Additionally, Texas is a “shall-issue” state, as an individual must be 18 years or older to own a firearm. However, laws do not regulate possession so that any person, of any age, may possess a firearm as long as they are not a felon. In Texas, there is no waiting period to obtain a handgun license.
Texas also enacted what is called a Castle Doctrine, where a person can use force- even deadly force- in order to protect their house, vehicle, or business against intruders. The concept comes from the philosophy that every person is the King or Queen of their residence, and therefore does not need to flee their kingdom in the case of an intruder. In certain situations, the law presumes you acted reasonably in using deadly force if an individual unlawfully and with force enters the home, vehicle, or business.
It’s important to remember that gun laws change frequently and without notice. In the beginning of 1019, a bill was introduced attempting to repeal the Castle Doctrine, and another making it a crime to fail to report a gun lost or stolen within 5 days of it being known to be missing. Another bill was introduced to opt-out of campus carry laws, where currently people with a License to Carry may carry a concealed handgun on the grounds and in the buildings of colleges and universities.
Gun control is hotly debated on both sides, and it seems there is a growing desire for more restrictions: a recent Gallup poll showed 60 percent of respondents said gun laws should be stricter, 5 percent said they should be less strict, and 33 percent said they should remain as is. Regardless of what side you are on, it will be interesting to see if the new bills are passed or not. Will these new restrictions cut down on the number of mass shootings, will they stay the same, or could they increase? Only time will tell how the situation will play out. Of course, we must hope for the best, as the physical safety and emotional well-being of our country depends on it.
Mary Kent Thiele