Chris Martinez, Gun Laws, Gun Violence, Gun Policy Study
TEXAS – Gun violence is skyrocketing across the country, with almost every state seeing an increase in homicides. In Texas, gunshot deaths have been on the rise since at least 2015, according to state crime data.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen pro-gun laws were passed on September 1, making it easier for Texans to have a gun. Recent national and state research indicates a correlation between more gun laws and more gun violence.
Gun rights advocates say these laws uphold the right of law-abiding citizens to bear naked arms. However, many law enforcement officials and families affected by gun violence say these laws will only cause more bloodshed.
Joyce Martinez is one of those families. She and her family meet monthly in the parking lot of an East Austin pawnshop. The same parking lot as her son Chris Martinez was shot down on March 21.
“It hurts me a lot, every day,” Martinez said.
They put up posters, photos, souvenirs and lit candles. Tuesday’s memorial marked the sixth anniversary of his death.
“He was a loving father, he was a good worker, he took care of his whole family, all of us,” Martinez said.
Chris Martinez is one of more than a thousand lives lost to gun violence this year in Texas.
Figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety show gun homicides have been on the rise for more than six years.
In October, gunshot deaths accounted for about 76% of all homicides in 2021.
Texas has the lowest gun restrictions in the United States, according to a national gun law study.
Spectrum News 1 examined over 600 new laws passed in September and found at least 16 pro-gun laws.
The list includes:
- HB1927 – Open port without a license
- HB957 -Repeal of Federal Requirements for Mufflers
- SB20 -Storage of weapons in hotel rooms
- SB550 – Removed requirement for belt and shoulder holsters
- HB781 – Authorize Primary School Marshal to Carry a Firearm
- HB918 -Allows to carry a license for minors with legal protections
- HB1069 – Allow First Responders Can Carry a Firearm
- HB1407 – Carrying a Firearm in a Motor Vehicle
- HB1387 – Storage of Firearms in Foster Homes
Central Texas Gun Works owner Michael Cargill said the laws would make the state safer. “I don’t like looking at them until they relax gun laws, I like to think of them as people regaining their freedom,” Cargill said.
He says most of these laws will have no effect on who can buy a gun, but it loosens the reins for legal gun owners who want to protect themselves.
Cargill says he’s seen a drop in the number of people signing up for classes, but predicts they’ll come back either by choice or against their will. “If you don’t come see me first to find out what the laws are, you will come see me after and it will be ordered by the court,” he said.
Professor criminologist Dr. Howard Henderson says many of these laws are aimed at more than “self-defense.” As a research director at the Center for Justice at Texas Southern University, he studies the impact of gun laws on behavior.
“What we found in our initial analysis is that open babywearing laws appear to increase violent behavior in general,” Dr. Henderson said.
In a 2020 report, the RAND Corporation found that covert porterage, child access, and obeying your great laws are the most likely to affect gun deaths. The national nonprofit research and development think tank has conducted numerous studies on gun policy and its effects on gun violence. Not all of their research has determined whether banning assault weapons, gun safety training, licensing and permit requirements, or minimum age increase gun violence.
Henderson’s research is still ongoing. He says if the initial findings are correct, open portering laws will further increase the risk to black and brown communities already disproportionately affected by gun violence.
TDPS reports show that homicide victims in Texas are predominantly black and Hispanic.
“Time will tell us more definitively whether these open portering laws further decimate the rising violent crime rates as we see in most cities across the country,” he said.
The same racial inequalities also apply to gun policies. State data on Texas gun violation arrests shows blacks have higher arrest rates than whites, with higher total arrests in 2020 and 2021.
The 2020 census shows Texas is 12.2% black.
Martinez is still fighting to bring his son’s murderer to justice and to prevent gun violence from tearing apart even more families. She says what her community needs is better police, not more armed civilians.
“There are more and more of them every day,” she says. “Every day we have gun violence, someone gets killed.”