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As a community is still in shock over the 7 dead and 22 injured in Saturday's mass shooting in west Texas, new laws go into effect Sunday in the Lone Star State that loosen gun restrictions — drawing the outrage of gun control advocates.
The new laws, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in June, will make it easier for Texans to have guns in schools, places of worship, foster homes where children live and apartments.
That the new laws go into effect less than 24 hours after at least seven people died in the Odessa and Midland, Texas, shooting on Saturday — and more than 20 people died in the El Paso shooting earlier this month — is not lost on those fighting to tighten the nation’s gun control laws.
“Four of the deadliest mass shootings in the last decade have taken place in Texas,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a national group working to end gun violence, told NBC News. “Instead of following other states' lead and passing life-saving legislation, like background checks and strong red flag laws, Texas’ governor and legislature have made even more lax gun laws,” she said.
Watts believes politicians like Abbott are allowing the gun lobbyists — like the NRA, which praised Abbott for signing the bills — to write his state’s gun laws, to the detriment of Texans.
“If more guns and fewer gun laws made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world, and Texas would be the safest state in the country,” Watts said, but that’s not the case.
Julián Castro, the Democratic presidential candidate, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a Texan, echoed that sentiment in an interview with MSNBC on Sunday.
“These laws are a mistake,” Castro said on "AM Joy," adding that if this past August has proven anything, it’s that more guns aren’t the answer. “The idea that a good guy with a gun is gonna stop a bad guy with a gun, it doesn’t work that way.”
David Chipman, senior policy advisor for Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by former congresswoman victim of gun violence, Gabby Giffords, told NBC News that the “good guy with a gun” Castro mentioned is simply a myth.
“The problem with the ‘good guy with a gun’ myth is that the bad guy always shoots first,” Chipman said. And with the type of weapons available to civilians, Chipman noted, people can do significant damage within a matter of seconds.
Chipman pointed to the recent shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where 10 people died and more than two dozen were injured. Police were able to shoot and kill the gunman just about 30 seconds after he started firing, but that didn’t stop him from taking innocent lives.
Removing restrictions on guns, Chipman said, just feeds the myth that more guns will help. “From my perspective, I don't see how the gun laws passed in Texas are going to do anything to prevent attacks like we saw yesterday.”
In a press conference Sunday, Gov. Abbott insisted the new laws will protect Texans, pointing to the law which allows more school marshals to have guns in schools. “Some of these laws were enacted for the purpose of making our communities safer,” Abbott said.
The governor, whose office did not return NBC News’ request for additional comment, said in the press conference he has been working daily in the wake of the El Paso shooting to provide “new and different solutions” that will “deescalate” gun violence in the state.
But advocates aren’t buying the less-control-is-more approach. Watts said there is a “body count” attached to politicians' inaction to enact gun control measures that the majority of the country support, like stricter background checks and red flag laws. For those working to pass gun control legislation, these new laws come as a slap in the face.
“Yesterday Greg Abbott put out some happy words on what we need to do to make sure we are safer, but the laws he signed actually make our families in Texas less safe,” Castro said. “It’s time to do something.”