Texas had seven mass shootings over 10 years. Meanwhile, gun control has loosened statewide.

*Correction appended

Texas has seen seven mass shootings over the last 10 years, and many of them sparked public debate about what legislation should be passed to prevent another one.

While University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls consistently show that Texans are divided about gun control — with 40% to 50% saying they want stricter gun laws — all but one of the laws passed over the past decade by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature have expanded where guns are allowed, who can have a firearm in schools and the right to openly carry guns.

The timeline below details how state lawmakers and the public have responded to mass shootings — through legislation and University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls — since the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.

We used Mother Jones’ mass shootings data and definition of a mass shooting, which relies on the FBI’s definition of a mass murderer, to determine which shootings to include in the timeline. Among the criteria:

  • The shooter killed at least four people. The U.S. government revised this in 2013 to three people, which is why the second Fort Hood shooting is included.
  • The killings were carried out by a lone shooter.
  • The shooting occurred in a public space.
  • Victim counts don’t include shooters who died or were wounded during an attack.

2009

LEGISLATIVE SESSION YEAR

Sept. 1, 2009

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Who can’t own a firearm

Clarified who can’t own a gun to include people who receive certain mental health care or diagnoses.

Nov. 5, 2009

SHOOTING

Fort Hood shooting

An Army psychiatrist opened fire at the Fort Hood Army base in an attack linked to Islamic extremism. The gunman was injured during the attack and later arrested.

2010

No mass shootings, relevant legislation or polls in Texas.

2011

LEGISLATIVE SESSION YEAR

Sept. 1, 2011

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Gun stored in vehicle

Restricted public and private employers from prohibiting firearm possession by employees in vehicles in parking areas.

2012

No mass shootings, relevant legislation or polls in Texas, but mass shootings elsewhere, like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, drew national attention and impacted future Texas laws.

2013

LEGISLATIVE SESSION YEAR

Feb. 15 to Feb. 24, 2013

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

44%
36
16
4

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

How much would stricter gun laws do to prevent gun violence?

16%
26
12
44
4

A lot

Some

Not much

Not at all

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose a ban on semi-automatic weapons?

40%
49
11

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose a ban on high-capacity magazines?

46%
45
10

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose background checks for all gun sales?

78%
17
3

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

May 31 to June 9, 2013

UT/TT POLL

Do you support or oppose background checks for all gun sales?

74%
24
3

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

Sept. 1, 2013

LAW TAKES EFFECT

School marshal program

Created a school marshal program allowing armed workers in Texas schools. Former state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, filed the bill in response to the Sandy Hook shooting.

Villalba said gun laws passed in the past 10 years have largely been less restrictive because the Texas legislature is controlled by lawmakers, like himself, who want to defend the Second Amendment.

2014

April 3, 2014

SHOOTING

Second Fort Hood shooting

A 34-year-old Army specialist opened fire at the Fort Hood Army base, killing three and wounding at least 12 others before he engaged with military police, then shot himself. Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley told reporters that the shooter "had behavioral health and mental health" issues.

2015

LEGISLATIVE SESSION YEAR

Feb. 6, 2015

GOVERNMENT ACTION

Purple Heart Medal

Expanded the criteria for awarding the Texas Purple Heart Medal to members of the armed forces wounded or killed during the first Fort Hood shooting.

Feb. 6 to Feb. 15, 2015

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

36%
36
22
5

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose campus carry?

47%
45
8

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Texans should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in public places …

23%
45
22
10

Never

With a license

With a license, and allowed open carry

Without a license

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

Oct. 30 to Nov. 8, 2015

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

41%
36
18
6

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

Which factors have contributed a great deal to mass shootings?

55% answered failure of mental health system to identify dangerous individuals

48% answered unstable family situations

47% answered media attention given to mass shooting perpetrators

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

2016

Jan. 1, 2016

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Open carry

Allowed license-holders to carry handguns openly in a hip or shoulder holster, changing the law requiring that such weapons be concealed. This bill was signed into law in 2015.

The law drew opposition from some law enforcement officials who said that in an emergency situation, open carry makes it difficult to tell the difference between a "good guy with a gun" and a criminal.

The bill's author, Rep. James White, R-Hillister, said open carry wasn't a major departure from the previous concealed carry law.

Feb. 12 to Feb. 19, 2016

UT/TT POLL

Do you support or oppose background checks for all gun sales?

78%
17
4

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

The open carry of handguns makes you feel …

22%
37
34
8

More safe

Less safe

No effect

Don’t know

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

July 7, 2016

SHOOTING

Dallas police shooting

A 25-year-old gunman targeted police at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, killing five officers and injuring nine others, as well as two civilians. After a prolonged standoff in a downtown building, law enforcement killed the gunman using a robot-delivered bomb.

Politicians including President Barack Obama and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Texas’ new open carry law added to the confusion at the chaotic scene as police had to consider whether people legally carrying guns might be threats.

Aug. 1, 2016

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Campus carry

Required the state’s public universities to give license-holders the right to carry a concealed weapon in dorms, classrooms and campus buildings.

2017

LEGISLATIVE SESSION YEAR

Sept. 1, 2017

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Bulletproof vests

Created and funded a bulletproof vest grant program to outfit approximately 50,000 Texas officers with vests that can withstand rounds from high-caliber firearms. The Dallas police shooting spurred the bill.

Sept. 1, 2017

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Threats to police

Made it a hate crime to attack police officers and judges, a bill inspired in part by the Dallas police shooting.

Nov. 5, 2017

SHOOTING

Texas First Baptist Church shooting

A 26-year-old gunman opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs during Sunday morning services, killing at least 26 people and wounding 20 others.

The Air Force failed to report the shooter’s domestic violence conviction to a federal database, which allowed him to buy guns before the shooting.

Oct. 6 to Oct. 15, 2017

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

52%
31
13
5

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

Which factors are the most to blame for mass shootings?

24%
21
13
31
10

Mental health system

Current gun laws

Spread of extremism

Other factors

Don’t know

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

2018

May 18, 2018

SHOOTING

Santa Fe High School shooting

In May 2018, a 17-year-old student opened fire at Santa Fe High School near Houston with a shotgun and .38 revolver legally owned by his father. The campus had an active shooter plan and two armed police officers. The school district had agreed to implement a school marshal program but had yet to arm teachers and staff at the time of the shooting.

May 30, 2018

GOVERNMENT ACTION

School safety plan

Gov. Greg Abbott laid out a plan that included mental health screenings, expanded school protections, narrow measures regulating gun usage and recommendations to expand the school marshal program. Some were passed as bills during the 2019 legislative session.

June 8, 2018

GOVERNMENT ACTION

iWatchTexas

Gov. Greg Abbott launched a reporting system allowing Texans to report potential threats in their communities and schools. Plans for the app were already underway before the Santa Fe shooting.

June 8 to June 17, 2018

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

51%
31
13
5

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be …

37%
39
15
9

More safe

Less safe

No effect

Don’t know

Which factors have contributed a great deal to school shootings?

49% answered insufficient mental health resources for students

46% answered poor parenting

44% answered failure to identify potential school shooters in advance

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

2019

LEGISLATIVE SESSION YEAR

Feb. 15 to Feb. 24, 2019

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

49%
30
17
4

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose red flag laws?

72%
18
10

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

Aug. 3, 2019

SHOOTING

El Paso Walmart shooting

A 21-year-old gunman was apprehended by police after opening fire at a Walmart in El Paso. He posted a racist manifesto online shortly before the attack.

Aug. 22, 2019

GOVERNMENT ACTION

Roundtable discussions

Gov. Greg Abbott held meetings to consider legislative proposals to address the shooting. The newly formed Texas Safety Commission — which includes state leaders, lawmakers and law enforcement officials — discussed expanding background checks, banning assault weapons and implementing “red flag” laws that allow courts to order the surrender or seizure of guns from people deemed dangerous.

Aug. 31, 2019

SHOOTING

Midland-Odessa shooting

A 36-year-old gunman fired at police officers, then went on a shooting rampage in the Midland-Odessa region. He had a criminal record and “a long history of mental problems and making racist comments,” according to a family friend who spoke to the media.

Sept. 1, 2019

LAW TAKES EFFECT

School safety plans

Instructed schools districts to implement emergency plans. This bill included recommendations outlined by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Santa Fe High School shooting.

Sept. 1, 2019

LAW TAKES EFFECT

School marshal firearms cap

Removed the cap on the number of school marshals who can carry firearms at schools. Gov. Greg Abbott recommended this measure in his safety plan after the Santa Fe High School shooting.

Sept. 1, 2019

LAW TAKES EFFECT

Weapons in places of worship

Clarified the right of licensed handgun owners to legally carry their weapons in places of worship. Many lawmakers said such a measure was needed after the 2016 shooting in Sutherland Springs.

Sept. 4, 2019

GOVERNMENT ACTION

Committees formed

Legislators formed groups to address mass violence prevention and community safety.

Sept. 5, 2019

GOVERNMENT ACTION

Abbott’s eight executive orders

Issued in response to the August mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, they focused on strengthening law enforcement’s ability to prevent future mass shootings by improving reporting channels.

Oct. 18 to Oct. 27, 2019

UT/TT POLL

Gun control laws should be …

51%
28
13
8

More strict

Left as they are

Less strict

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose background checks for all gun sales?

81%
13
5

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose red flag laws?

68%
21
11

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Do you support or oppose a ban on semi-automatic weapons?

59%
33
8

Support

Oppose

Don’t know

Margin of error: +/- 2.83%

Methodology

The mass shootings in Texas included in this timeline were sourced from Mother Jones’ U.S. mass shootings database. We mentioned shootings outside of Texas that had a major impact on Texas legislation but did not include them in the timeline.

We went through 10 years of The Texas Tribune’s coverage of legislative sessions and mass shootings to compile relevant laws and government action. Laws were cross-checked on the Texas Legislature’s website. Bills signed into law are listed by the date they went into effect.

We selected poll questions from University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls that asked about gun control and gun violence. We prioritized questions that consistently appeared in surveys and asked specifically about mass shootings or major gun bills. Similar options for a question were consolidated — for example, “Strongly support” and “Somewhat support” appear together as “Support.”

The introductory graphic was inspired by the timeline from The Washington Post’s mass shootings article.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Walmart have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not specify that campus carry applies only to those licensed to carry a concealed weapon and incorrectly characterized the law regulating weapons in places of worship. That law clarified the rights of licensed handgun owners to carry weapons in places of worship. The total number of people injured in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting was also incorrect. It is 31.