Open carry seems to be going off without a bang in Texas.
Law enforcers statewide had anticipated being overwhelmed by 911 calls from Texans reporting others openly carrying holstered handguns, but the phone lines haven’t been even close to slightly busy.
“We do not have anything interesting to report,” Cpl. Tracey Knight, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Police Department, said last week. “Two calls so far, no issues. We have no concerns and we have had no problems.”
That’s two more calls than have been logged by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department.
“I said before this became law that I thought it was going to be much ado about nothing but I didn’t know it was going to be this much nothing,” Sheriff Dee Anderson said.
That sentiment has been echoed by other law enforcers across the state — as well as by many open carry supporters — about the new Texas law that went into effect Jan. 1.
“As we predicted, the passage of the open carry law has been a real nonevent,” said C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas.
Not everyone agrees.
It’s too soon to tell. Carolyn Daniel, an Arlington volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
“It’s too soon to tell,” say opponents such as Carolyn Daniel, an Arlington volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
She and others with Moms Demand Action opposed the law before it took effect and remain opposed.
“Changes in legislation can take years to determine an impact,” she said.
Some say the biggest impact of open carry is the growing number of businesses that have outlawed guns on their property.
‘All seems quiet’
The Legislature first restricted the carrying of pistols in public in 1871.
That law first changed in 1995, when lawmakers allowed handguns to be carried if concealed.
Lawmakers again approved changes last year, and Jan. 1 was the first day Texans who are licensed — which means they are at least 21, have a clear criminal record and no record of mental illness — could legally carry their guns openly.
So far, all seems quiet. Shannon Edmonds, staff attorney for the Austin-based Texas District and County Attorneys Association
“So far, all seems quiet — which is consistent with what we expected,” said Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney for the Austin-based Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which has had staffers traveling across the state teaching prosecutors, police and judges about the nuts and bolts of the law.
In Texas, more than 925,000 people, around 3.4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents, have a license to carry, according to the most recent numbers from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
In Tarrant County, more than 65,000 residents had licenses to carry handguns as of November.
Peace officers statewide have been trying to determine how to handle the new law.
They have suggested anyone who sees a person openly carrying a handgun and feels threatened should call the police or sheriff’s department.
“So far, we haven’t seen any major incidents relating to the new open carry law. And that’s a positive — no matter how anyone feels about the law, pro or con,” said John Moritz, a spokesman for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
“Lawmakers are already making plans to hold hearings on how the law is being implemented and CLEAT encourages them to listen to police chiefs, sheriffs, cops on the street, for ways to make the law safer without infringing upon anyone’s constitutional rights,” he said.
Grisham said law enforcement on this issue “has been great.”
“We haven’t a single incident with police harassment that we are aware of,” he said.
Now some gun owners say open carry is just the beginning.
Many say they hope Texas lawmakers will consider “constitutional carry” next year to let Texans openly carry handguns without any license at all.
Since Jan. 1, a number of gun owners have posted pictures of themselves openly carrying holstered handguns in public — including in front of the Texas Capitol — on Facebook and Twitter.
And many have been asking which businesses allow people to openly carry on their property and which ones prevent it.
“Yes, it seems some businesses have decided to put up signs, but it’s not as widespread as the media has made it sound,” Grisham said. “This is the same sort of business reaction that occurred in 1995 when the concealed handgun law was passed, so we expect that within a year or so the hype will die down and the signs will begin disappearing.”
Open carry opponents say they won’t go into businesses such as Kroger, Home Depot or Bass Pro Shops that have said licensed Texans may openly carry on their property.
And open carry supporters say they won’t go into businesses such as Half-Price Books, Torchy’s Tacos or AMC movie theaters that won’t let them openly carry their weapons.
I hope the right to walk around looking like Wyatt Earp is worth it. … It may cost some of us our lives for your privilege to play cowboy. A gun owner using the handle LTUME1978 who posted at TexasCHLForum.com
The Moms Demand Action group has posted a list of stores online that it has learned won’t allow handguns to be openly carried on their property.
Some gun owners have questioned whether open carry was worth the effort, since there now seem to be more businesses preventing any sort of gun from on their property.
“I hope the right to walk around looking like Wyatt Earp is worth it to the open carry folks because a lot of us are loosing our right to concealed carry and it may cost some of us our lives for your privilege to play cowboy,” a gun owner with the handle LTUME1978 posted on the TexasCHLForum.com website after his workplace prohibited guns to be carried at all.
A person with the handle Richbirdhunter was among those on the online forum who disagreed.
“So you guys have no appreciation for this restored freedom? Would you rather the government take it away again for another 125 years,” Richbirdhunter responded. “Freedom scares people, we have been told it’s OK to lose freedom for safety. What freedoms are you willing to give up for safety?
“We have the patriot act, Obamacare, ‘common sense’ gun laws. All of these things make us safer. Do you feel free?”
On Facebook, one open carry supporter encouraged like-minded Texans to continue openly carrying their weapons and look to the future:
“Now, on to Constitutional Carry.”