State Politics

Is it time to change gun laws to include constitutional carry in Texas?

Some of the Texans gathered at the Republican Party of Texas state convention in San Antonio are openly carrying their guns.
Some of the Texans gathered at the Republican Party of Texas state convention in San Antonio are openly carrying their guns.

Andrew Holley makes no bones about it.

He feels better when he has his Smith and Wesson M&P 9 mm strapped to his hip.

And it's there, whether you see it or not.

"I carry every day," the 31-year-old Amarillo man said. "We live in a dangerous world and people do weird things"

Holley is among the thousands of delegates in San Antonio this week for the Texas Republican Party's every-other-year state convention.

This year, guns — in the wake of deadly school shootings and concerns about attacks on gun rights as school safety plans are proposed — are expected to be a big topic.

Licensed Texans already may openly carry their weapons, or carry them concealed. They also may carry them on some college campuses.

But some want more and are calling for so-called constitutional carry, which would let Texans carry their weapons without first getting a permit.

That issue already is in the Republican Party's platform, an outline of party beliefs that candidates do not always follow and are not bound by.

Delegates this week may add the call for constitutional carry to their legislative priority list. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, unsuccessfully proposed such a law last year.

"Both the Texas and federal constitutions guarantee the right to bear and keep arms," Holley said.

Suezette Griffin, a delegate from Pearland, said she feels safer when she is around people carrying guns.

"I know the guys who open carry are the good guys," she said. "With all the craziness around, I'm happy to see it."

As for Holley, this is the third Republican state convention he has attended.

And the third where he has carried a gun.

He even carried in 2014, when the convention was in Fort Worth and the question of whether guns could be carried into the convention center was a concern because the facility holds a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission license.

That year, he carried a black powder pistol that is not considered a firearm under Texas law.

"I open carry on a fairly regular basis," he said. "I conceal carry all the time.

"It is our personal responsibility, first and foremost, to take care of ourselves."

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Open carry became legal in Texas on Jan. 1, 2016.