New laws expanding gun ownership in Texas came into effect today, just hours after a mass shooting in the state's west killed seven people.

The laws, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in June, make it easier for Texans to have guns in public places, including schools, places of worship and foster homes.

It comes after seven people died in the shooting near the twin towns of Odessa and Midland in west Texas on Saturday, and just weeks after 22 people died in a shooting in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.

Anderson Davis, 17 months old, was hit in the face and chest by a bullet fragments during the Odessa shooting. Photo / GoFundMe
Anderson Davis, 17 months old, was hit in the face and chest by a bullet fragments during the Odessa shooting. Photo / GoFundMe

Police have identified Seth Ator, a 36-year-old white male, as the shooter involved in the attacks, reported.


The weekend's shooting brought the total number of mass killings in the US so far this year to 25, which is as many mass killings as in all of 2018.


The state of Texas has signed a series of laws that will make it easier to store and carry guns in public places in the Lone Star State, including schools, foster homes and churches.

House Bill 1143 says a school district cannot prohibit licensed gun owners, including school employees, from storing a gun or ammunition in a locked vehicle at a school carpark.

House Bill 1387 loosens restrictions on how many armed school marshals a district can appoint.

House Bill 2363 allows some foster homes to store guns and ammunition in a safe place.

House Bill 302 allows residents to possess, carry, transport and store a gun or ammunition at their property, regardless of whether they own or rent it from someone else.

House Bill 1177 prohibits residents from being charged for carrying a gun while evacuating a state or local disaster area.


Senate Bill 535 allows licensed gun owners to legally carry their weapons in places of worship, including churches, synagogues and mosques.

It comes nearly two years after a gunman killed 26 people at the state's Sutherland Springs church.


The new laws have sparked fury among gun control advocates, with many politicians and high-profile commentators describing them as "madness" and "heartbreaking".

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a national group working to end gun violence, said the laws would not make the state's people safer.

"Four of the deadliest mass shootings in the last decade have taken place in Texas," she told NBC News. "Instead of following other states' lead and passing lifesaving legislation, like background checks and strong red flag laws, Texas' governor and legislature have made even more lax gun laws.

"If more guns and fewer gun laws made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world, and Texas would be the safest state in the country."

Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement calling on national gun control legislation after the tragedy.

"Enough is enough. Every day, the epidemic of gun violence inflicts a devastating toll in communities in every corner of our country, forcing far too many to endure heartbreak and tragedy. The Republican Senate must end its obstruction and finally pass the commonsense bipartisan, House-passed gun violence prevention legislation that the country is demanding," they said.

"Tonight and in the days to come, all Americans stand with the Midland and Odessa communities. May it be a comfort to those grieving the loss of their loved ones that so many mourn with and pray for them at this difficult time."

But not everyone shares the sentiment. Texas Republican state representative Matt Schaefer posted on Facebook that gun reform wouldn't "stop a person with evil intent", advising people to instead "pray for protection".

"'Do something!' is the statement we keep hearing," he wrote. "As an elected official with a vote in Austin, let me tell you what I am NOT going to do. I am NOT going to use the evil acts of a handful of people to diminish the God-given rights of my fellow Texans. Period. None of these so-called gun-control solutions will work to stop a person with evil intent."

Later in the post he continues: "What can we do? YES to praying for victims. YES to praying for protection. YES to praying that God would transform the hearts of people with evil intent."

President Donald Trump has not commented on the new gun laws directly, but he said background checks wouldn't have prevented the massacre.

"Background checks — I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five, going back even five or six or seven years — for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it," he told reporters from the White House lawn.

"So it's a big problem. It's a mental problem. It's a big problem."

Mr Trump said he would be working with Democrats and Republicans on gun legislation when Congress returns this month.

"I think you're going to see some interesting things coming along," he said.

Seth Ator, 36, has been identified as the alleged shooter. Photo / Texas Department of Public Safety
Seth Ator, 36, has been identified as the alleged shooter. Photo / Texas Department of Public Safety


Seth Ator, a 36-year-old white male, has been identified as the shooter involved in the Odessa and Midland attacks, local law enforcement officials said on Facebook.

The gunman went on the rampage killing seven people and wounding 22 others, including a toddler who was shot in the face, before he was killed by police.

Police said Ator had been fired from his trucking job just a few hours before his rampage began, but stressed they had not yet established a clear motive to explain his violent actions.

The second mass shooting in Texas in four weeks began on Saturday afternoon with a routine traffic stop.

It ended when Ator was cornered by officers in the parking lot of a cinema complex.

Police, motorists and shoppers were all caught up in the chaos that unfolded between the cities of Odessa and Midland during a busy Labour Day holiday weekend.

Authorities have said the shooter was known to police and lived locally. They said the investigation continues, but there was no apparent link to domestic or international terrorism.

"There are no definitive answers as to motive or reasons at this point, but we are fairly certain that the subject did act alone," Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said at a news conference.

Mr Gerke said seven victims were killed and 22 wounded, and he offered his condolences to their families.

"My heart aches for them all," he said.

Among the wounded was a 17-month-old girl, Anderson Davis, who was shot in the face, according to officials and an online fundraising campaign started by her family.

Three police officers were shot and wounded and were in stable conditions.

After fleeing, the suspect hijacked a postal van and opened fire on passers-by before he was shot dead outside the Cinergy cinema complex in Odessa, police said.