Ever since Texas passed a law two years ago allowing people to carry a gun without a permit, random acts of gun violence have increased dramatically—including over the weekend when a shooter attacked a crowded mall.
A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. It was the deadliest attack in Texas since the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde last spring.
There have now been 202 mass shootings since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, five of which occurred after the Texas shooting. The Texas mall attack was the second-deadliest mass shooting of 2023, after the one in Monterey Park, California. But Texas is in its own category when it comes to mass shootings, thanks to the state’s lax gun laws.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law in 2021 that allows anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a license or training. A study found that the number of mass shootings increased by 62.5 percent in the year after the law was implemented
“From June 13, 2020, to June 13, 2021, when Abbott signed the permitless carry law, Texas had 40 mass shootings. In that same time period from 2021 to 2022, the number of mass shootings rose to 65,” state news outlet Reform Austin reported in September 2022.
In the one-year period before the bill was signed, 187 people were killed or injured in mass shootings in Texas, Reform Austin said. In the one-year period after the law was implemented, that number doubled to 375 people.
Texas was already struggling with gun violence, according to a study published in April by Colin Woodard, the head of Salve Regina University’s Nationhood Lab, which studies American democracy and authoritarian threats to it. The Deep South region, which includes a large swathe of Texas, “is the most deadly of the large regions,” Woodard wrote in Politico.
From 2010 to 2020, the Deep South had the highest rate of gun homicides of all U.S. regions. Over that same time period, the Deep South also had the highest rate of overall gun deaths (homicides and suicides). Woodard attributed these high rates in part to the Southern culture of “honor tradition”—meaning that people feel they need to respond personally to perceived slights or insults, or else it diminishes their dignity.
Infuriatingly, Abbott said Sunday that he would not attempt to reform gun laws in his state, even in the wake of the shooting. When a Fox News host showed him a recent poll that found the overwhelming majority of people favor increased gun control, Abbott said he would focus instead on the “root cause” of gun violence: mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat.