Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet: Dangerous Gun Laws in Texas

Even after several high-profile mass shootings in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott continues to weaken the state's gun crime laws; gun deaths have surged 44 percent during his time in office.

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A father and his daughter pay their respects to those lost during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
On May 31, 2022, a father and his daughter visit a memorial dedicated to the 19 children and two adults killed on May 24 during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Getty/Brandon Bell)

On July 7, 2016, a 25-year-old gunman killed five Dallas police officers and wounded at least 11 other people. This was just one of at least 31 mass shootings under Greg Abbott’s (R) leadership as Texas governor, during which gun-related deaths have surged 44 percent. In 2020, 80 percent of all homicides in Texas were committed with a gun, a 10 percent increase from Gov. Abbott’s first year in office. And despite Abbott’s claims, this surge in gun crime is not limited to the state’s cities; in fact, the Texas counties with the highest rates of gun deaths include West Texas’ Brewster County, the Southeast’s Goliad County, and Cass County in the far eastern corner of the state.

Gov. Abbott has prioritized the interests of the gun lobby over the safety of Texans, enacting extreme laws that have been proven to increase gun violence.

Gov. Abbott’s own policies are driving this dramatic increase in gun crime. In 2015, Abbott enacted a reckless open carry law that endangers public safety and emboldens hate groups. After the 2016 mass shooting of Dallas police officers, the city’s police chief blamed the law for creating more confusion and chaos at the crime scene and for hindering law enforcement’s ability to respond. But Gov. Abbott hasn’t stopped undermining law enforcement efforts to reduce gun crime. During the 2019 legislative session—less than a year after a 17-year-old killed 10 students and teachers at Santa Fe High School—Abbott signed laws allowing more guns on school campuses and allowing guns to be carried in places of worship. Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and teens in the state, with more than 372 children dying by guns each year.

In stark contrast, Abbott’s opponent, Beto O’Rourke, has a record of supporting commonsense gun policies and has led calls to address Texas’ reckless gun laws in the aftermath of tragedies across the state. O’Rourke has been vocal about his intent to prioritize requiring background checks on gun purchases and repealing Abbott’s permitless carry law. These policies—supported by a majority of Texans—would help ensure that guns stay out of the hands of dangerous people, making Texas a safer state.

Gun violence in Texas: By the numbers

44%

Increase in gun-related deaths in Texas during Gov. Abbott’s time in office (2015–2021)

80%

Percentage of homicides in Texas that were committed with a gun in 2020

4,613

Number of people killed by guns in Texas in 2021

74%

Share of Texas voters that oppose permitless carry laws

Gov. Greg Abbott has repeatedly passed policies that put guns in the hands of dangerous people and hindered law enforcement’s ability to limit gun crime

  • In his first legislative session as governor in 2015, Gov. Abbott signed the state’s “open carry” law, which immediately created massive confusion for law enforcement and local governments in the state.
  • In 2019, Gov. Abbott again signed into law a slate of dangerous gun bills, including a law that would bring more guns into elementary schools and high school as well as a law allowing guns to be carried in places of worship.
  • In 2021—the first legislative session after 30 people were killed in two mass shootings in Midland-Odessa and El Paso—Gov. Abbott signed a reckless permitless carry law that allows individuals to carry guns in public spaces without a background check or prior training:
    • Research has found that this type of policy is associated with a 13–15 percent increase in violent crime, which is why the law is opposed by 74 percent of Texans.
    • Republicans in the Texas Legislature blocked multiple attempts by Democrats to include gun safety measures in the bill.
  • In 2021, Gov. Abbott passed extreme legislation to prohibit and penalize local governments and law enforcement for assisting in enforcement of many federal gun safety laws.
  • That’s why the gun lobby has spent more on state-level lobbying in Texas than in any other state during Gov. Abbott’s term.
  • After the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers lost their lives, Gov. Abbott refused to call legislators for a special session.

Gov. Abbott’s laws coincide with dramatic increases in gun crime and deaths

  • More people in Texas are killed by guns today than when Greg Abbott took office in 2015: In 2021, 4,613 people in Texas were killed by guns, a more than 10 percent increase from 2020 and a more than 44 percent increase from 2015.
  • Guns are increasingly the driving force behind murders in the state: More than 80 percent of murders in Texas were committed with a gun in 2020, increasing more than 10 percent compared with 2015 rates.
  • Gun-related suicide rates have increased in Texas during Gov. Abbott’s term: Suicides now make up 62 percent of all gun deaths in the state, and nearly 3 in 5 suicides are by firearm. Research shows that states with weak gun safety laws, such as those Abbott has enacted, have the highest rates of suicide.
  • Texas’ dangerous gun laws make it a leading source of guns trafficked into other states and across the southern border:
    • According to a Center for American Progress analysis of U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) data, 37,000 guns recovered in crimes in other states were traced back to Texas from 2010 to 2021.
    • This makes Texas the state with the second-highest level of trafficked firearms to other states during that period, behind only Georgia.
  • Texas is also the number one source of guns trafficked into Mexico, with 40 percent of guns traced from U.S. origin coming from Texas.
  • Gun violence in Texas has disproportionately affected communities of color, with high-profile mass shootings in El Paso and Uvalde targeting the Latino community and 881 Latino firearm deaths reported in 2019 alone.
  • Despite Gov. Abbott’s claims that cities in Texas are the problem, gun violence has swept across the state’s rural communities during his time in office: Counties with the highest rates of gun deaths span from West Texas’ Brewster County to the Southeast’s Goliad County to Cass County in the far eastern corner of the state.

Beto O’Rourke supports commonsense policies that would reduce gun violence

  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) has pledged to repeal Abbott’s deadly permitless carry law, create an extreme risk protection order, expand background checks, and improve safe storage and child access prevention laws.
  • After multiple mass shootings in the state, O’Rourke has emphasized the need to raise the age to buy an AR-15 to 21 years old.
  • In the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting, O’Rourke has consistently called on Abbott to hold a special session to address policy changes that could prevent future tragedies.
  • Recent statewide polling shows these policies are overwhelmingly popular: A majority of voters oppose permitless carry, while 78 percent of voters support universal background checks and 66 percent of voters support extreme risk protection orders.

Conclusion

In the nearly eight years that Greg Abbott has been governor, Texas has become less safe. With each legislative session during his two terms in office, Gov. Abbott has prioritized the interests of the gun lobby over the safety of Texans, enacting extreme laws that have been proven to increase gun violence. The numbers have tragically followed suit, with increases in gun-related deaths and crime since his laws took effect.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Author

the Center for American Progress Action Fund

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