New applications for handgun permits in Texas dropped by 87 per cent in 2021, hitting a five-year low, according to the latest data from the US state's Department of Public Safety.
In June 2020, nearly 39,000 Texans applied for a gun permit for the first time, but that number fell to just under 5,000 by November 2021, Xinhua news agency reported citing the data.
The dramatic swings mirror political and social turbulence over the past two years, a report from The Houston Chronicle said.
Amid social unrest fuelled by police brutality and government lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, people may have feared for their safety, potentially increasing interest in carrying a gun, said the report.
It noted that the number of applications remained high in late 2020 and early 2021, during and after the presidential election and the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
By mid-2021, those concerns died down, bringing the numbers back to somewhat normal levels.
In September, the state's "permitless carry" law took effect, allowing almost all Texans aged 21 and over to carry handguns in public without licenses.
The total number of Texas permit-holders climbed last year, clocking in at 1.7 million by November 1, up from 1.6 million in the prior year, according to the report.
Licenses now mostly provide benefits outside Texas.
When travelling, some states require that all individuals have permits when carrying in public.