Texas Politics

Thousands of gun owners expected at concealed carry expo in Fort Worth

Kevin Carden and his daughter, Makayla, drove 16  1/2 hours to get to Fort Worth from Winston-Salem, N.C., on Friday.

Makayla, who has a concealed carry license, is about to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — and her father wants to make sure she’s prepared for life on her own.

That’s why the two drove here, to attend the three-day U.S. Concealed Carry Association Expo at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

“I just got my concealed carry license,” said Makayla, 21. “Now I’m ready to get more training and learn more.”

The annual expo may be the right place for her.

More than 7,000 gun owners are expected in town through the weekend to attend the event that offers training seminars, a live-fire shooting range, a reality-based training center and more.

The event, much like a trade show, also offers a variety of concealed carry products such as purses, holsters, targets, lingerie and more. Other gun accessories — from ear muffs to cleaning kits and safes — also are available.

Booths also are set up to offer information about everything from training sessions to legal help that could be needed for those who travel with firearms or end up using their handgun for self defense.

“We want people to be educated from the top to the bottom,” said Kevin Michalowski, executive editor of the Concealed Carry Magazine who was helping with the expo Friday.

Guns in Texas

In Texas, licensed gun owners may openly carry handguns, or keep them concealed.

Handguns were not allowed to be carried publicly here until 1995, when the Texas Legislature allowed gun owners to carry their handguns concealed in many areas of the state.

By 2016, Texans who are licensed — which means they are at least 21, have a clear criminal record and no record of mental illness — were allowed to openly carry handguns across the state except in certain areas. Other laws went into effect to allow the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses.

State lawmakers are considering a plan to allow Constitutional Carry, which means Texans would no longer have to be licensed, or train, to openly carry their handguns in most areas of the state.

But concealed carry, and whether one state’s license is recognized in other states, has been a big topic nationwide.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has introduced The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which is geared to allow gun owners to keep their firearms with them as they cross state lines.

Latest technology

One of the more popular attractions at the expo Friday was a 53-foot standard trailer called “The Mobile Shooting Experience.”

All six sides of the 57,000-pound trailer were plated on the inside with AR500 Armor, and then covered with fire-retardant foam. The trailer, valued at about $500,000, has a ventilation system to keep the air clean inside.

Three firing range lanes were set up inside for people attending the expo to test guns, or perhaps fire a gun for the first time, said Phil Ludos, a former police chief and general manager of Mobile Tactics, which runs the mobile firing range.

Those doing so slip on safety glasses and ear muffs and are allowed to fire 10 rounds of live ammunition at targets set up about five yards away.

Frank Cantu, 62, was among those waiting for the expo doors to open Friday afternoon.

The retired border agent and his wife drove in for the expo from Ballinger, near San Angelo. They learned about the expo last year when he signed up for concealed carry insurance.

“I’m excited to see some of the latest technology,” he said. “I’m just like a kid in a candy store here.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

USCAA’s annual Concealed Carry Expo

  • Through Sunday
  • Fort Worth Convention Center, 1201 Houston St.
  • 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
  • Admission is $30, $10 spouses and children, free for USCAA members.
  • For more information, visit usccaexpo.com.