Other Voices

Open carry law approved despite concerns of Texans

Richard Hodo, center, and others at an Open Carry rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center last year.
Richard Hodo, center, and others at an Open Carry rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center last year. Star-Telegram

Texas’ soon-to-be-signed open carry of handguns law was not as easily passed as one might have imagined at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, and for good reason: The proposed bill was met by serious opposition from both citizens and cops who understand the obvious problems that come with the practice of prancing around with a loaded gun for all to see.

With a history of armed exhibitionism in family restaurants, on city sidewalks, even at tourist-heavy spots like the Alamo and Galveston Pier, gun extremists did little to ingratiate themselves to the public at large and to business owners in the lead-up to the session.

And a majority of the state’s major police chiefs voiced the very reasonable concern that differentiating ostensibly “harmless” gun-toters from those seeking armed self-aggrandizement (or those who would use the law to cloak intentional and imminent harm to others) is not a task they should be forced to incorporate into their duty of keeping our daily landscapes safe and civil.

Still, the Texas not passing even one gun bill by the end of the session would’ve reflected poorly in the eyes of the gun lobby.

In its final form, open carry legislation (with a permit, in a holster) was finally escorted to the governor’s desk late in the session.

Lawmakers who voted to pass the law were likely hoping it would appease the more “serious” old guard of the gun lobby (who, during hearings, invoked a wishfully nostalgic caricature of a typical open carrier, a guy who just “wants to take his jacket off while pumping gas on a hot day”).

Lawmakers also likely hoped the looniest of gun-rattlers would just go away already.

In true and predictable form, it took less than a week after the bill was passed out of both chambers for a band of said armed extremists to remind us that there will be no rest for those who have set themselves to “exercising their constitutional rights” in the most outrageous form possible.

In a confrontation in Abilene last week, the leader of a small open carry group, carrying an assault-style rifle, filmed himself losing his temper when police arrived in response to a call from the owner of the private property the group had been standing on.

Not only was he incensed that law enforcement officers had their weapons ready when they approached him for identification, but he was also curiously indignant that the property owners themselves hadn’t first ventured outside to ask him and his AR-15 to step off the premises.

Supposing this guy will calm down once he’s allowed to openly carry a handgun is, again, wishful thinking.

This kind of self-fulfilling escalation , for which little rational explanation exists beyond the desire to intimidate and attract confrontation, has become second-nature to open carriers. Yet, our lawmakers insisted on the alternate hypothetical — that open carry would somehow enhance public safety and civility.

Instead, the new law has only emboldened those among us whose main source of validation comes from scaring others. So much for a sound public safety policy.

We’re not naïve. Even without the spectacle of a self-described “good guy with a gun” losing his pickles in Abilene, we know that many of the over 30,000 deaths from firearms in America each year begin as a simple disagreement or a disregard for manners that turns fatal in the presence of a firearm.

And so, after the passage of open carry in Texas, we’re left right back where we started: with a pit in our stomach when that gun guy walks into the neighborhood Kroger. When those rifle-bearers stroll past the playground. When that pistol-packer stops for a moment in front of the high school.

Thankfully, those of us united in common sense are not going away either. The Legislature meets again in 2017. See you then.

Sandy Chasse is a lead volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.