Texas Allows Guns in Churches, Schools After Firearm Access Laws Expanded, Effective September 1

Gun owners in the state of Texas can now legally bring firearms into churches, synagogues and schools after a loosening of restrictions passed by legislators earlier this year.

Despite national calls for added gun control measures in the wake of the country's most recent slew of mass shootings, Texas Republicans went the other direction and expanded locations where guns are permitted. Effective as of Sunday, September 1, Texas gun owners can now bring weapons into places of worship and onto school campuses across the Lone Star state. Just hours before the gun laws were set to take effect, five people were killed and 21 others were injured in a mass shooting in West Texas near Midland and Odessa. The murders followed another mass shooting, in El Paso, earlier in August.

The National Rifle Association lauded the new easing of Texas gun laws as "highly successful," while gun control activist groups such as Texas Gun Sense have blasted the move for making "schools and communities less safe."

Texas Republicans passed numerous laws during the state's last legislative session in regards to firearms:

Under Senate Bill 535, Texans can carry guns into churches, synagogues or any other places of worship unless the property owners explicitly prohibit firearms with posted signage. Under House Bill 302, landlords can no longer prevent tenants or guests of tenants from carrying firearms under the lease agreements. And under Senate Bill 741, property owner associations can no longer ban the storage of guns on rental properties.

House Bill 1387 has eased restrictions on the number of school marshals who can carry firearms for both public and private schools. Previous laws stated there could only be one armed marshal for every 200 students in an educational facility. Meanwhile, House Bill 1143 has eased restrictions on handgun license holders storing guns and ammunition in parking lots or other property owned by school districts.

Additional easing of firearm restrictions beginning September 1 allows foster homes to store guns and ammunition and lets Texans carry handguns without a license during evacuations from disaster areas. That legislation, House Bill 1177, was triggered in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and is intended to allow gun owners to protect themselves during lawless periods of time following natural disasters.

House Bill 121 now provides a defense for licensed handgun owners to enter an establishment that has banned firearms as long as the gun owner leaves the property when asked by the owner.

The Texas gun law easing goes into effect just hours after the murder of five people in a West Texas shooting that ended outside a busy entertainment center. "It has been confirmed that the active shooter was shot and killed at the Cinergy in Odessa. There is no active shooter at this time. All agencies are investigating reports of possible suspects," the Midland Police Department said in a public statement Saturday.

gun free school zones repeal
House Republicans look to permanently eliminate gun-free school campuses across the country with the reintroduction of a bill to fully repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act. Getty Images/Andrew Aitchison
Texas Allows Guns in Churches, Schools After Firearm Access Laws Expanded, Effective September 1 | U.S.