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Staff Editorial: We Don’t Need Your ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

Guns don’t belong in places of worship nor does Texas lawmaker’s hypocrisy

Over the past seven years, mass shootings have unfortunately become a commonality across the nation despite an outcry to end gun violence. These acts of mass murder have been able to continuously perpetuate due to lenient gun laws and legislatures not taking action to protect their constituents. 

In Texas, Senate Bill 535 went into effect on September 1, which clarifies an existing statute that licensed handgun owners can lawfully carry firearms into places of worship unless the establishment provides signage prohibiting firearms from their location. This bill comes two years after a gunman opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas , killing 26 people and injuring 20 more. 

Just hours before this bill went into effect, a gunman killed seven and injured 21 during a drive-by mass shooting in Odessa and Midland, Texas. Including the 2017 Sutherland Springs mass shooting, four of the ten worst mass murders in American history have occurred in Texas. 

Despite Texas being right behind Nevada in the highest number of mass murder casualities in the nation, state lawmakers have done little to curb this rising body count. 

Loosening gun restrictions in places of worship is a futile attempt to throw a figurative - sometimes a literal - Band-Aid on a gunshot wound and not address the concerns of Texans. We don’t need Texas lawmaker’s “thoughts and prayers”; we need action taken to prevent another Sutherland Springs. 

Mass shootings in places of worship are not limited to the U.S. Earlier this year, 51 people died after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand which prompted New Zealand’s parliament to reform their gun laws by placing a ban on most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and establish a buy-back program for gun owners. Historically, New Zealand has had stringent gun laws for decades, with gun violence rates being some of the lowest in the world and the last mass shooting occuring in 1997. 

After the Christchurch mass shooting, Americans called for U.S. lawmakers to follow New Zealand’s example and bring about change before another mass shooting occurred. Yet, Texas lawmakers have claimed that Texans don’t want stricter gun laws citing the Second Amendment and Texan’s “God given right to open carry”. 

A public opinion poll by The Texas Politics Project found that over 60 percent of Texans want stricter background checks. Admittedly, only 40 percent of Texans favor a ban on semi-automatic weapons, but the poll does reveal the contrast between Texas lawmakers and their constituent’s concerns. 

Despite the overwhelming support for stricter gun laws, many anti-gun law supporters have pointed out the National Rifle Association’s argument “the only way to stop a bad guy is with a good guy with a gun”. Yet, studies have revealed a correlation between weaker gun laws and an increase in mass shootings. 

A 2019 study published from The BMJ evaluated mass shooting rates, the leniency of firearm laws, and gun ownership from 1998 to 2015 to test the linkage between them. By increasing the weakness of state gun laws by 10 percent, researchers found that there was a nine percent higher rate of mass shootings. Additionally, a 10 percent increase in gun ownership was associated with an estimated 35 percent higher rate of mass shootings. 

Allowing guns into places of worship is counterproductive in the fight against gun violence and therefore the Texas legislature needs to reverse this law. Additionally, Texas lawmakers should pass further background check laws, restrictions on private gun sales, and implement red flag laws to keep guns out of places of worship and other public spaces for citizens. 

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