“The [Texas permitted open carry] bill’s author, Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, dismissed any concerns about a loophole.” dallasnews.com reports. “He said the amendment [prohibiting police from using open carry as probable cause] just provided ‘clarity’ to police officials that if ‘people are being law-abiding citizens, there’s no need to interfere with their daily activity.’ Predicting that a small number of Texans would actually open carry, he said didn’t think it would be an issue.” Wait. Texas, soon to be the most populous state in the union with open carry, won’t have many open carriers? That’s what he said . . .
“It’s real easy to think about all these different circumstances that could cause alarm,” he said, reiterating that the bill makes clear the need for a license. “But at the end of the day, you are going to see very little open carry.”
Setting aside the fact that Texans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms – openly – does not depend on the number of people exercising their gun rights or arguments grounded in social utility, I think Larry’s wrong. Hear me out . . .
Texas is not gun-friendly state. Legally speaking. Look no further than the fact that this open carry bill is NOT Constitutional Carry (i.e., the freedom to carry without state registration or tax of any sort). That’s a freedom enjoyed by gun owners in Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, Wyoming and soon-to-be Kansas. Texas gun owners who want to open carry must still pass a background check, take a course, pay a tax, submit fingerprints and depend on government approval.
Campus carry is still verboten in the only state to have existed under six flags (the Confederate flag is the stumper.). Texas gun owners can’t carry a firearm into an eating/drinking establishment that posts a 51% sign, where alcohol constitutes 50 percent or more of trade. A new 30.07 sign will forbid them from open carrying in some places.
Under the current regime, less than a million Texans have concealed carry permits (which will allow them to open carry come January). By contrast, Florida has 1.3 million permit holders. Alabama has the highest percentage of concealed carry permit holders; just over 12 percent of the population have received the state’s permission to carry a concealed weapon. Followed by South Dakota (also over 12 percent).
Digging deeper, just 44 percent of Texans own a gun. That doesn’t put the Lone Star State in the top five states for highest percentage of gun owners (it’s behind Alaska, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Wyoming).
Texas’s relatively gun-averse legal framework and statistically low percentage of concealed carry permit holders and gun owners comes as a surprise to many. Thanks to Hollywood, Texas has a cultural reputation for being a state of gunslingers. And here’s the thing: it’s not as misleading as you’d think.
Guns are an integral part of the state’s cultural heritage of self-reliance, a part of both myth and the existing social fabric. Gun signs and artwork are for sale in every gift store in Fredricksburg that doesn’t sell stinky candles, and many that do. Sure, that’s a tourist town. But even in my home of Austin, ground zero for Texas liberals, no one bats an eye when I tell them I run TTAG and the Texas Firearms Festival. In fact, they’ve been universally supportive.
Think about that: the people I meet don’t own guns – and support gun control – don’t freak out when I tell them that firearms are my life. We’re talking zero animus. Contrast this with my home state of Rhode Island where everyone I met who learned of my livelihood looked at me like I had pin lice in my eyebrows. I’m hear to tell you the two states are worlds apart, culturally speaking, when it comes to guns.
OK, so, will this pro-gun culture lead Texans with permits to open carry? I say yes. Yes it will. Not just because it’s damn hot here in the summer, but also because a significant portion of Texans who carry guns want to be seen as Texans openly carrying guns. They want to be seen as self-reliant. Independent. Upholders of law and order. In some ways, it’s a romantic ideal. In others, it’s simple pragmatism. Quick draw deterrence.
Seriously. It’s a self-image Western-style-meets-self-defense thing. As to what percentage of Texans with permits will open carry, I can easily see it starting at about five percent of concealed carry licensees. Say, 40k people. Once other CHL owners see people openly carrying, they’ll follow suit. (The come out, come out wherever you are school of social trends.) I predict ten percent or more will carry openly after year one. Or more.
And it won’t just be rural folks. I wouldn’t be taken aback if open carry takes off in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Maybe even or especially in marginal neighborhoods, where law-abiding citizens want to project their ability to defend themselves and the rule of law by the threat (I said it) of lethal force.
I could be wrong. I am, after all, the blogger who predicted that President Obama wouldn’t touch gun control. But since then, I’ve developed a firearms-related sixth sense. A sense of the pro-gun gestalt wherever I go. I’m telling you that Texas gun rights are coming out of hibernation, begun when the state’s armed elitists decided to disarm slaves and freed blacks.
Wishful thinking? Yes and no. Time will tell. Watch this space.