Gun Law in Texas

These lesson planning notes for teachers are for use with the text of the article ‘Gun law in Texas’.

Activity 1

Before reading the article itself, it is good to have some introductory verbal discussion with the students to introduce the topic and to encourage them to relate the topic to their own countries or other familiar contexts.

Activity 2

Students are asked to scan the text and find the significance of various words and figures.

  • Castle doctrine – This is the name given to the proposed new gun law in Texas.
  • 30-years plus – Professor Jerry Dowling of Houston State University has lived in Texas this long.
  • 911 – This is the emergency number in the US.
  • 27 of 31This is the number of state senators supporting the bill.
  • NRA – This is the National Rifle Association. They are always pushing against any laws on gun control.
  • Texas liberals – They are small in number, but noisy.
  • Zach Ragbourn – He is the chairperson of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Activity 3

Students may need help with the use, meaning and pronunciation of certain words as used in the passage.

Activity 4

Students are asked to complete the sentences using words from a list:

  1. civil suit is a non-criminal charge brought by one person against another.
  2. In terms of law, an action is legitimate if the person taking that action is doing so within the law and in good faith, believing that (s)he is doing the right thing.
  3. A person who is an aficionado is someone who is very knowledgeable about a particular subject, a sport, a specific musical interest, food, drink and so on. They may not be professionally trained in this area but they will be well informed.
  4. Advocates are people who push hard for a particular course of action or law in life, politics, religion, law and so on.
  5. If you are astounded about something, you are very, very surprised.
  6. You will often find that writers find their inspiration from their own lives and from the lives of people around them.
  7. If we say that something is theoretically possible, we mean that it can happen but it may never have been seen to happen. It may be possible for all the snow at both poles to melt but it has never yet happened.
  8. If someone has immunity it means that they cannot be punished or that they are protected in some way or other by the law. Someone could also have immunity from an illness or disease.
  9. If a group seeks to make their beliefs the foundation of a law or of several laws, then we saw that they want to enshrine their beliefs in law.
  10. lobby is a group who seek to influence government policy. Some of them spend many millions of dollars every year trying to influence government policy. As some of them are businesses, many people believe this is wrong.

Activity 5 – Students read the passage silently.

Activity 6 – Students answer the questions

  1. Who wants to change the gun laws in Texas?
    Republican legislators want to change the law.
  2. What is meant by the Castle Doctrine?
    This is the right to shoot people who come in to your house to steal things or to hurt you.
  3. Have you heard of the Alamo? What do you know about it?
    In 1836, there was a battle at the Alamo between forces seeking to keep Texas part of Mexico and forces wishing Mexico to be independent. The large Mexican army was successful in the battle. However, the small army of defeated soldiers (who were all killed) gained a reputation for courage.
  4. What does Texas law currently require people to do when someone breaks into their house?
    They should retreat.
  5. Have people in Texas been punished for shooting people who intrude into their houses?
  6. What warning signs do some people put up outside houses/businesses?
    People have signs saying We don’t call 911 with a rifle underneath. This means that the owners will shoot.
  7. What organisation has been pushing for changes in the gun laws?
  8. Who are having second thoughts and why?
    Florida is having second thoughts after the death of an innocent girl.
  9. What do liberals in Texas feel about this law?
    They are against it.
  10. Give two reasons why some people are against this change to the law?
    Advocates of gun-control are worried the new law will do nothing to protect genuine victims of crime. It could lead to gun fights and the death of innocent people.

Activity 7

Students are asked to explain the meaning of certain words and expressions. This can be done orally or in writing, and individually, in small groups or as a whole-class activity.

  • spiritual home – The place where these views first developed.
  • frontier spirit – This is said to be the spirit of people in the early days of opening up America. There were few laws and people looked after themselves.
  • co-sponsors – The two people or organisations sponsoring a law or some other change.
  • merciless fun – This means using humour without mercy to attack this new law. Since the capitol would also be covered by this new law, they said that lobbyists might get shot when they tried to get in.
  • overwhelming support – The great majority of Texas legislators support this proposed new law.
  • an innocent bystander – Someone who is innocent but who accidentally gets involved in shooting or other violence and is hurt or killed.
  • alternative publication – A publication which is not amongst the widely-read papers or magazines in an area. Such a publication is often critical of the local or central government.

Activity 8

Similarly, these longer sentences or expressions can be focused on to make sure students understand and can use them correctly.

  • Anyone invading your home or threatening your safety deserves everything they have coming to them – This would be said by a supporter of the new law and means that if a burglar is shot he deserved it.
  • You’ve got to assume a criminal’s not there to buy girl-scout cookies. This would also be said by a supporter of the law. He is being sarcastic and saying that a burglar would not be coming into your house to do something nice.
  • Monkeying with the law – Messing around with the law; changing it without thought and care.

Activity 9

The students are asked to match up some sentence stems and endings that were used in this passage:

Link items in the boxes appropriately.

You’ve got to assume that people are honest on the whole.

You’ve got to assume that the world is not going to end tomorrow.

You should be able to reach the coast before dark.

You should be able to pass the Advanced Level exam before next year.

I’d be astounded to hear of a company like Microsoft collapsing.

I’d be astounded to hear of someone swimming 100m in less than 9 seconds.

Activity 10

Students make up sentences that correctly use the expressions given. They should be encouraged to construct sentences in a variety of contexts, not related to the article itself.

Activity 11 – Role-play

You could put the students into groups of four. Each student is given a role-play card. Tell the students to study the cards carefully and then argue your case for or against changing the gun laws in America as a whole.

Your profile:conservativeyou have a shopa gun ownera Bush supportera supporter of the new lawYour profile:a Quakeragainst violenceagainst gunsagainst the new law
Your profile:a Texan liberalagainst the new lawbut believe people should be able to own gunswant more gun controlYour profile:a British teacher working locallyyou are against gunsyou are for gun controlyour husband/wife was shot and injured in a shooting at your home last year