Updated on April 17, 2015
Constitutional Carry: A “Non-issue”Recently, Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton expressed the idea that passing a law that would legalize the open carry of firearms would “put a tremendous burden on law enforcement because citizens are going to call when they see someone openly carrying a weapon.”
With Republicans winning a greater share of the elected offices in Texas, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo met with other Texas chiefs of police about the issue of open carry. After the meeting, Acevedo remarked that “we don’t need to go back to the Wild, Wild West,” something he says would occur with the passage of open carry legislation here in Texas. Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland called open carry “madness.”
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry told the Texas Tribune he doesn’t “want the bad guys to know if I’m carrying” and doesn’t “want to be the first person shot if something’s going down.”
Over the past nearly two years since I founded Open Carry Texas, I’ve heard the gamut of excuses for why Texans should have the right to openly carry their modern handguns. It never ceases to amaze me how these myths have become so ingrained that we just repeat them without thought, evidence, or understanding.
“People will be scared.”
“You will be the first one targeted.”
“Open carry loses the element of surprise.”
“How can we tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy if everyone is open carrying?”
“It will be the Wild West.”
Each and every one of these is patently absurd and all founded on emotional arguments, not rational or reality based ones. In fact, we don’t even need to be asking many of the questions being tossed about today if Texans regain their natural right to self defense. There are 44 states that currently have open carry. Of those, 31 do not require a license. In other words, two-thirds of the country doesn’t require a license to open carry and there isn’t blood in the streets and shootouts at the OK Corral aren’t happening all over the place.
What I find most interesting is that the same Chiefs of Police that falsely predicted utter mayhem and destruction during the debates about passing the CHL law pass back in 1990s are at it again. With a track record like that, it surprises me how many legislators tell me, “I need to find out what the law enforcement community thinks first,” as if our rights are dependent on the opinions of those that serve in our communities around the state and defend those rights. Have we really devolved as a republican society that our law enforcement who are on the front lines every day get to decide which rights they want to support and defend?
In 2013, Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 2 into law that returned open carry rights to Mississippians. However, law enforcement and gun control activists quickly launched an attack to keep the law from going into effect. In an injunction filed in Hinds County Circuit Court, these opponents claimed that “when firearms are openly carried by untrained individuals, it is less likely that these individuals will properly retain control of their weapons. Therefore, others are able to easily disarm carriers in order to use the weapons against innocent bystanders.”
In a refrain that would be echoed here in Texas two years later, the injunction went on to claim that “allowing the open carrying of deadly weapons could cause the escalation of disagreements between citizens and could lead to increased incidents of violence with deadly weapons in the State of Mississippi.”
Ken Winter, the director of the state Association of Chiefs of Police, expressed concern by noting he is “a firm believer in law enforcement officers going home at the end of the day…From an officer safety standpoint, it appears that basically anybody who’s not a convicted felon can go anywhere with a gun.”
One year after Mr. Winter made that comment, he was forced to admit that passing unlicensed open carry has “kind of been a non-issue.” One year later, all the predictions of doom and gloom never materialized.
In 2010, when Arizona was debating its constitutional carry law (exactly what Open Carry Texas is pushing for in passage of HB 195 and SB 342), the gun control crowd was out in force again with the same false arguments against the right to keep and bear arms.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence opined that more violent crimes and accidental shootings are a causal effect of unfettered access to guns. The spokeman for the Brady Center claimed that, “Arizona is a disaster when it comes to even trying to prevent gun violence. It is among the worst of the worst.”
The lobbyist for the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Kendra Leiby, expressed her disapproval for constitutional carry by claiming, “more liberal laws lead to more deaths in the home.”
Sam Hoover, from Legal Community Against Gun Violence, said that passing a constitutional carry bill “sends a message [Arizona] is not really concerned about public safety.” Endorsing that belief, Brian Livingston, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, said that not requiring a permit “would add an increased element of danger” to his job.
Since 2010, the murder rate in Arizona has dropped from 6.4 to 5.4 per 100,000. Additionally, Arizona’s violent crime rate fell from 413.6 to 405.8. An armed citizenry is actually a benefit to law enforcement, not a hindrance.
We’ve already heard all the arguments. It’s a debate that has already been had and each time the proponents of gun control have been proven wrong. 31 states already have unlicensed open carry and it hasn’t contributed to more murders, more accidental shootings, more blood in the streets, and certainly no additional threats to law enforcement. While it may be difficult to determine if open carry is responsible for the drop in crime rates, it certainly can’t be said that it caused a rise! If Texas legislators refuse to allow Texans to openly carry their modern handguns without a permit, they are telling their constituents that we are dumber, less trustworthy, less responsible, and less capable of exercising our rights in a safe and legal manner as opposed to two-thirds of the country. Arkansas, with its constitutional carry law, enjoys reciprocity agreements with 40 other states. Arizona has constitutional carry and its CHL has reciprocity with 36 states. Wyoming has constitutional carry and its CHL is valid in 37 other states, as is the Alaska CHL. Texas only has licensed concealed carry and its CHL is recognized in only 34 states. Constitutional carry will not remove the Texas CHL and will not hurt reciprocity agreements. In fact, it appears that a lack of constitutional carry hurts more.
We’re behind the power curve with respect to recognizing our state and federally protected right to keep and bear arms. As I write this, with 31 unlicensed and 13 licensed open carry states, it boggles my mind that Texas lawmakers would push to make Texas #14 on the licensed list when that list is shrinking instead of joining the growing list of 31 states? West Virginia, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Idaho and Indiana are considering passing constitutional carry laws while many more states are looking to shed their permits for open carry. Why are we still living in the Reconstructionist, carpetbagger era here in Texas?
Legislators have no legitimate reason to license away our rights this session and every reason to return constitutional values to Texas. Licenses should never be a stepping stone to regaining our rights when the debate has already been settled virtually everywhere else.