Widely regarded as the most gun-friendly state in the United States, Texas is making open carry laws a topic of discussion once more. Texas is one of few states that maintain a full ban on the open carry of handguns. The state stands to make a change in stance in 2015 and, if approved, would be the largest state to allow the open carry. This would back a 140-year ban on the practice.
Governor-elect Greg Abbott plans to push for an expansion of gun rights, including allowing the open carry of handguns. With the support of a Republican-led legislature, Abbott is in a position to make that happen. He has already confirmed that if the bill comes across his desk, he will sign it in approval. Abbott feels that if states like Massachusetts allow the open carry of handguns, Texas should embrace the practice as well.
A 63-year-old rancher, Coni Ross of Blanco, has a concealed weapon permit and carries her handgun in her purse for protection. She supports the option to open carry. She said while on her ranch, her handgun is out and by her side. She feels more comfortable and in control with her weapon already out than having to dig in her purse to fish it out. She argues that an individual can successfully launch an attack while someone is digging out their weapon.
Most of the United States has already allowed open carry in some shape or form. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group from California backing gun-control legislation, reported most of the country backs the open carry law.
South Carolina, Illinois, New York, Florida, California, and Texas so far do not allow the open carry practice. These six states include six of the seven biggest population centers, making up more than one-third of the country’s population.
Densely populated areas are traditionally against the open carry laws and maintain the most stringent controls on weapons, arguing that guns in crowds are hard to police. Adam Winkler, UCLA law professor and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, said that the fact that the state of Texas still has a ban dating back to the 1870s on open carry was a surprise to him.
It does present an ironic dichotomy, as the State of Texas courts dealers and manufacturers, persuading them to do business in the state. Texas currently holds the most weapon licenses in the country. State lawmakers and Gov. Rick Perry actively lobbied for gun makers to migrate to the state, touting the few restrictions on gun ownership. The state allows for the display of shotguns and rifles, also referred to as long guns. The Capitol building allows licensed holders to bypass metal detectors with a concealed weapon but Texas still prohibits handguns from being visible.
The open carry ban which has become a topic once more of discussion in Texas was first put in place when the government was nervous about freed slaves and former Confederates carrying weapons, according to Jerry Patterson, Land Commissioner. Attempts to change the law failed until in 1995 Patterson, then a state senator, spearheaded the campaign to expand gun rights and passed the concealed weapon law. Today the state has over 800,000 concealed weapon licensed holders, almost equal to the population of San Francisco.
Supporters of gun ownership in Texas did find open carry too extreme when the concealed weapon law passed. Ever since the law passed, legislation has been expanding gun rights periodically. In the last three legislative sessions, heated talks were had about allowing concealed weapons on college campuses around the state. Supporters of the measure believed that eventually open carry laws would be passed in the state.
While most of the bills filed for January’s session still require a license to obtain a firearm, Rep. Jonathan Strickland, R-Bedford, is pushing for the elimination of licensing just to carry a weapon. The basis of his argument was that citizens did not need to attend a course or pay fees just to practice their First Amendment rights and felt that it was not necessary to practice their Second Amendment right either.
Recently, a Houston police officer’s actions during a stop of an open carry advocate prompted an internal investigation by the department. In the video, the officer confronts a man carrying a firearm. In an attempt to delete the video, the officer accidentally stops and starts the recording catching his actions. The officer tosses the man’s protest sign and then takes the man’s gun without consent after the man did not provide him with identification.
The video was uploaded on YouTube on Dec. 6, but according to police, the actual time of the incident could not be confirmed due to the ongoing investigation. A Houston Police Department spokeswoman confirmed with The Blaze that the man was legally carrying his weapon at the time of the incident and was freed at the scene. That information, however, was not immediately confirmed by authorities pending the internal investigation. This confirms that open carry laws are still a topic of heated discussion and debate among gun rights advocates and law enforcement in Texas.
Opinion By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Robert Nelson – Flickr License