The Texas Open Carry Controversy

Texas Map gun Texas is a state with a unique image in many ways. This unique quality can be illustrated by the adventure a former colleague had on a visit to Germany during the 1980’s. A German woman, asked her during a conversation, if she rode a horse to work. Of course, some Texans still do ride horses, but probably not to work.

One other thing that distinguishes Texas is its broad protection for firearms ownership. Among other things, the state has “shall issue” approach to concealed handgun licenses (CHL’s) that requires county government to issue a CHL to any adult, with no significant criminal record, who takes the required classes and passes the subsequent examination. Licensees must also requalify periodically. The number of firearms dealers is also astounding to one raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After moving here a friend still living in Oakland, California asked me what I saw as the most obvious difference between my old residence and new. The answer was the prevalence of the firearms culture and the use of concealed carry.

Not satisfied with the concealed carry law some Texans have recently been organizing to promote “open carry” which would mean that the average citizen, legally able to own a gun, would be legally able to wear that gun in public, unconcealed. There are two forms of open carry legislation being promoted at present in the Legislature. They can be described as licensed open carry and constitutional carry. The difference between the two is significant. Under the licensed proposals CHL holders would have the option of carrying openly as well as concealed. It is possible that they would also be required to take additional training as part of the CHL class covering the open carry rules. The constitutional carry proposal is essentially a blanket, uncontrolled open carry permit for all Texans who are legally able to own a firearm.

According to Open Carry Texas, a gun rights advocacy organization, 44 states have some form of open carry law, and of those, 31 do not require a license. Open Carry Texas supports the constitutional carry proposal as does Texas Gun Rights and other organizations. And while the two, above mentioned appear to be well organized and in control of their public relations, a recent incident involving an organization known as Open Carry Tarrant County raised questions about the manner in which Texans and other Second Amendment advocates should be publicizing their positions and lobbying legislators. He result was that some legislators are going to have “panic buttons” installed in their offices in case this sort of thing happens again.

Ft. Worth is the county seat for Tarrant County. It is unclear exactly what sort of support the local organization has, but it clearly is much more confrontational than Open Carry Texas, which has been largely using media appearances, general publicity, and non-confrontational informational efforts and lobbying to get their message across. Their President CJ Grisham was angered at what the Tarrant County group did, and promised to clean up the resulting “horse manure.” Grisham is correct when he stated that unprofessional efforts are counter productive to the Second Amendment Rights cause. Grisham is correct in his sentiment regarding confrontational activities and is pursuing the path most likely to be successful. The question of what, if any changes to Texas gun rights happen may hinge on the question of whether the legislators see gun rights advocates as orderly and law abiding “gun nuts,” or as trouble making “nuts with guns.” The former can be expected to follow the rules and be part of an orderly society, while the latter invoke disorderly images of a “wild west” that governments do not want to see.

Texas, despite the extremely strong showing by conservatives in the last general election is still home to many ideological liberals such as Houston Mayor Anise Parker and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, and we should not forget Abortion Barbie gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Leftist legislators will make hay with a lot of people over the issue of gun safety and responsible ownership, perhaps falling back on a past refrain that no gun owner is ever truly responsible, and using the less than professional advocates as the basis for their arguments. This may well make the fight for either version of open carry much more difficult to achieve.

Another concealed carry proposal that is taking a back seat this session, so far, is known as campus carry. It would authorize CHL licensees to carry their weapons on college campuses; something that is presently prohibited. The sentiment in favor of this came in the wake of various campus attacks, which might have been thwarted or prevented if someone had been present to counter force with force. Several incidents in the Houston area led Dan Patrick, former state Senator and now Lt. Governor to support such legislation.

Of the three items, campus carry is probably the most useful and the most likely to succeed in the new legislative session if it comes to a vote. Licensed open carry is the second most likely. Constitutional carry is probably a long shot, despite the origins of the proposal and the expected benefits in crime suppression if it is enacted. The “nuts with guns” aspect of the issue may be its death knell, at least as the Texas public is presently constituted.

This issue is only one that will be closely followed during the 2015 legislative session. Massive property tax changes are also in the docket and Lt. Governor Patrick has stated publicly that there will be no budget passed without them. The state also faces budgetary issues due to reduced oil revenues and will need to control spending for the near future until the economy stabilizes.

Texas has, for the last 5 years, been an economic bubble, not affected by events in the rest of the nation. Whether or not that will continue remains to be seen. Firearms laws have taken up much of the spotlight, and are important issues, but will no be the only ones on the agenda for the next 6 (or more) months.

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