After the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead on Wednesday, calls for tighter gun laws have been roaring across U.S. and beyond.
In a country where the leading cause of death for young Americans aged one to 19 is by firearm, Texans are allowed to carry a handgun without licensing or training, as per a law signed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.
However, if you want to own more than six sex toys in Texas, that’s a crime.
Under section 43.23 of the Texas Penal Code, owning more than six “obscene” devices – including dildos or artificial vaginas designed or marketed primarily for the simulation of human genital organs – is against the law.
“A person who promotes…material or an obscene device or possesses the same with intent to promote…it in the course of his business is presumed to do so with knowledge of its content and character,” the penal code says.
A person who possesses six or more obscene devices is deemed to “possess them with intent to promote the same.”
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Here’s a look at some of the other things restricted by Texas law.
Transgender legislation in Texas
Texas is one of the “worst” states for anti-trans sentiment and legislation, according to Alexander Petrovnia, a trans man who founded the Trans Formation Project, a grassroots volunteer organization dedicated to tracking and educating Americans about the anti-trans legislative crisis.
“They’re trying to legislate which kind of people are allowed to exist and which are not,” he said, noting in 2020 alone over 30 pieces of anti-trans legislation were introduced, though all were defeated. “As somebody who has been deemed undesirable, that is terrifying and infuriating,” Petrovnia said.
Texas is one of the dozens of states where conservative politicians have sought to criminalize provision of medical treatments used to help young people transition from the gender they were assigned at birth.
On May 13, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that neither Gov. Abbott, nor the state’s attorney general, had the authority to order child abuse investigations into families that provide certain medical treatment for their transgender children.
That was in response to an order by Gov. Abbott requiring “doctors, nurses and teachers” to report any instance of a young person using gender-affirming medical treatments as child abuse. It allowed for criminal penalties to be imposed on those who don’t comply and on the parents of transgender children.
“Abbott as an individual has been hugely influential in terms of the anti-trans legislation — in terms of what’s going on in Texas,” said Petrovnia.
“It’s just so backwards and it’s all a part of a political propaganda campaign by the far right to push these policies that are uniquely beneficial to them. It is devastating to see.”
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Just over a year ago in May 2021, Gov. Abbott signed what’s known as the Heartbeat Act into effect, banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Before the new law, many Texans seeking abortion would visit Oklahoma until recently, when that State passed what’s now the country’s strictest abortion ban into law. The Oklahoma ban prohibits all abortions with few exceptions – one being to save the life of a pregnant person or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest that has been reported by law enforcement.
If the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe vs. Wade — the 1973 decision that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction — as hinted in a recently leaked draft document from the present court, Texas law would impose a sentence up to life in prison for performing an abortion.
Texas’ stance on abortion has been criticized by many including former Texas representative and Democratic presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke.
“If you are driving out our women because you don’t trust them to make their own decisions about their own bodies, when you place a $10,000 bounty on the back of anybody that seeks to help anybody else make their own reproductive healthcare decisions, that’s not good for business in the state of Texas,” he said in video posted to his Twitter account from Feb. 2022.
Last week on May 25, O’Rourke interrupted a press conference a day after the school shooting in Uvlade to lay blame on state officials over the state’s gun laws.
“You are doing nothing,” O’Rourke was heard saying as he stood below the podium of officials, pointing his finger. “This is totally predictable.”
Despite calls for stricter U.S. gun laws, members of the National Rifle Association took the national stage in Houston at a their annual convention, just days after the massacre to denouncing it but insisting that changing laws or further restricting access to firearms is not the answer.
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“Twenty-one beautiful lives ruthlessly and indiscriminately extinguished by a criminal monster,” Wayne LaPierre, the group’s chief executive, said during the convention.
Still, he said that “restricting the fundamental human rights of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves is not the answer. It never has been.”
Former president Donald Trump took a similar stance during his convention remarks.
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens,” he said. “The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.”
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press
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