Texas Politics

Now's the time to ban open carry of long guns, assault rifles, Texas lawmaker says

A Texas lawmaker proposes banning the open carry of long guns in the state.
A Texas lawmaker proposes banning the open carry of long guns in the state. AP

The state should formally ban the open carry of long guns such as the Ruger AR-556 rifle carried in Sunday's mass shooting, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

State Rep. Poncho Nevarez called for the change, stressing that this is not about disarming Texans.

"We have this oddity in Texas where you can walk around locked and loaded," said Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, who owns guns himself. "Let's get that out of the equation. To me, that's just common sense.

"This has nothing to do with disarming," he said during a press conference live-streamed from the Texas Capitol. "I have a lot of guns and no one is coming to take my guns."

Nevarez's proposal — which drew quick criticism from gun rights advocates — comes after Sunday's mass shooting, when Devin Patrick Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and began shooting, killing dozens and injuring even more.

Some have called for tougher gun restrictions, but President Donald Trump and others have said this isn't the time to discuss the issue. The president has noted that the Texas shooting is "a mental health problem at the highest level."

Nevarez said now is the time.

"If not now, when?" he asked. "Politics is not a dirty word. We can have conversations around ideas."

Terry Holcomb said the measure will never pass the Texas Legislature.

"It's not going to happen," said Holcomb, executive director of Texas Carry and a pastor at Crossroads Baptist Church in Oakhurst. "We are Texas. We are not New York or California. And we don't operate in an emotional paradigm.

"Lawmakers won't support this because of the Second Amendment or the state Constitution."

In Texas, anyone carrying a handgun must have a License to Carry, but no such license is required for a long gun, including assault rifles.

State law allows licensed residents to carry handguns openly or concealed in many areas across the state. And they may carry concealed handguns onto many public college campuses, though they are banned at some.

State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, said Sunday's mass shootings needs to be treated as a public health issue.

Collier compared the e coli outbreak in spinach more than a decade ago — when the country addressed the issue, pulling produce from shelves and studying what happened after people began getting sick and dying.

"Today, the outbreak we are talking about is mass shootings," she said.

This year, there have been 378 mass shootings where three or more people were killed that led to more than 530 deaths and more than 1,600 injured across the nation, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker database.

Twenty-six of those have been in Texas, including one just a month ago when a man shot and killed eight people, including his estranged wife, during a football watch party in Plano.

"We have to look at what we can do to minimize what's coming next," Nevarez said. "Because something is coming next."

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley