Sheriffs, police officers, and district attorneys in urban parts of Texas have seen an increase in people carrying weapons and in spur-of-the-moment gunfire since the state began to allow most adults to carry a handgun without a license.
One year ago, Texas joined what has been an expanding effort to remove nearly all restrictions on carrying handguns. Texas is the most populous state to have done away with any permit requirements to carry a handgun in public.
Five of the biggest cities in America are in Texas, and the aftermath of a permitless approach to guns has had different ramifications in busy cities than in rural areas.
The state-by-state legislative push has coincided with a federal judiciary that has increasingly ruled in favor of carrying guns and against state efforts to regulate them.
Many of these states that have opted for looser gun laws are much more rural.
And in Texas, some sheriffs and police in rural areas say they have seen little change. But in the cities, prosecutors have received a growing stream of cases involving guns.
Some guns have been brandished or fired over parking spots, bad driving, loud music, and love triangles.
“It seems like now there’s been a tipping point where just everybody is armed,” said Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County, which includes Houston.
There has not yet been a statewide statistic released since the law came into effect in September 2021. But there was a particularly violent 2021 in many parts of the state. In 2022, the picture of crime in Texas has been mixed, with homicides and assaults up in some places and down in others.
But what has been clear is that far fewer people are getting new licenses for handguns even as many in law enforcement say the number of guns they encounter on the street has been increasing.