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CJ Grisham (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Open Carry Texas President and CEO CJ Grisham writes:

History was made in Texas during the 84th legislative session. For the first time in twenty years, major gun rights legislation was passed through both chambers and signed into law. Governor Greg Abbott made both open carry and campus carry with a license legal . . .

In 1871, the Reconstructionist government took away the rights of Texans to carry “any pistol, dirk, dagger, sling-shot, sword-cane, spear, brass knuckles, bowie knife, or any other kind of knife, manufactured or sold, for the purpose of offense or defense.” In the 144 years since, the only major pro-gun legislation was passed in 1995 when Texas legalized the concealed carry of handguns with an expensive license. The rest of Texas gun laws were nothing more than remnants of laws designed to disarm newly freed slaves.

In both 2011 and 2013, open carry legislation was introduced by Representative George Lavender, but never made it out of committee. After the disappointing session for the 2nd Amendment, Open Carry Texas (OCT) was created with a mission to secure more gun rights for Texas. If the prevailing gun rights organizations couldn’t get it done, was it even possible?  Open Carry Texas would have to use a more aggressive tactic. Begging for our rights had gotten us nowhere in the past so it was time to demand.

Our mission was simple, but aggressive: educate Texans about current laws, condition them to feel safe around firearms (liberal deprogramming), encourage lawmakers to pass pro-gun legislation, and work with law enforcement to minimize negative encounters. To do this, we were going to have reinvent the definition of a gun rights activist.

After my arrest, it became painfully obvious to me that Texans and law enforcement didn’t know the law about what is legal to carry in the Lone Star State.  In order to prevent another encounter like the one I had, I made it a point to ensure that OCT maintained a cooperative relationship with cops. To do that, we made it a policy to contact police departments prior to our events to ensure they knew we were out there in case someone called. Unfortunately, some departments tried to prevent us from having our events and we were forced to inform them that we weren’t asking them for permission, just giving them the courtesy of a notice.

As a result of this policy, 99% of our encounters with law enforcement have been overwhelmingly positive. Even when they showed up after getting a call, the encounters were cordial, respectful, and professional. We were always willing to work with them so long as they were willing to work with us. When they weren’t, we didn’t back down. We stood our ground and demanded respect and adherence to the law. As a result, Open Carry Texas enjoys a healthy and positive relationship with nearly every police department in Texas.

Education is fundamental in building support for any cause, especially gun rights. To meet this aspect of our mission, our members held over 2,000 open carry events across the state. These events ranged from 2-3 people in a small town to over 1200 at the Alamo in October 2013. We handed out over 200,000 fliers, attended nearly 100 gun shows, and took part in parades and festivals all over the state. We successfully drew attention to the absurd reality that we could carry the largest rifle that can be legally owned, but not the smallest pistol openly – and we did so without a license!

In order to condition Texans to feel safe around firearms, we had to expose them to firearms. For decades, liberal gun grabbers and so-called gun rights advocates have brainwashed Americans into thinking that guns are something to be ashamed about and needed to be hidden.  Open carry, “which is calculated to incite men to manly and noble defense of themselves,” (State v. Chandler, 5 La. An. 489, 490-91 (1850), cited in Cramer, p. 88.) needed to be revived.

When we first started in June 2013, I don’t think we had a single event that didn’t result in law enforcement being called. In the first six months of our existence, we had amassed 19 arrests (all charges were dropped except two, and they were acquitted). Between November 2013 and now, there have only been two and each of those were for carrying holstered, plastic or rubber, toy guns. The number of 911 calls has dropped by 95%. The conditioning worked.

The groundwork was laid and we had taken advantage of the interim time to build political support. The only thing left was to convince our lawmakers that the time had come to cast away the remnants of Jim Crow and usher in a new era of gun rights. Texas needed to live up to its reputation as a gun friendly state. Throughout the primaries and campaigns, our members were helping in every district to install liberty-minded candidates.

Open carry was a statewide campaign issue that even the top candidates were debating because of our efforts. Like us or love us, we made open carry a platform issue. We forced the conversation instead of letting others decide the timeline for the return of our rights. Neither Texas nor the United States was ready for the kind of statewide gun rights activism that we brought to the discussion.

And it paid off. So, what now? After all, OPEN CARRY Texas achieved open carry.

We’re not close to being done. Our ultimate goal is complete constitutional carry. That is, if you can legally own a firearm, you should be able to legally carry that firearm without begging the government for permission in the form of a license. Texans deserve the right to carry a handgun openly or concealed without being tracked and taxed through a government licensing scheme. Our amendment to protect Texans from overzealous cops and nosy neighbors was thrown out during debate, so we will continue pushing for laws that protect gun owners who are minding their own business, but carrying a holstered handgun.

We unsuccessfully fought to get the Disorderly Conduct statute reworded so that the mere act of carrying a firearm openly, absent any indicators of criminal activity, can’t be interpreted as disorderly by anti-gun cops. We will continue to work with in fixing our knife laws. This session, we helped them get a state preemption bill passed that will end the patchwork of knife laws around the state. For example, state law bans carrying locking blade knives over 5.5 inches. In San Antonio, you can’t carry one UNDER 5.5 inches. If you traveled from Corpus Christi to Dallas, you could potentially be violating knife laws about a dozen times and not even know it.

Campus carry was passed, but it was watered down by allowing schools to still prevent law abiding citizens from arming themselves for self-defense in certain areas. We want to change that by abolishing ALL gun free zones in Texas.

With great responsibilities must come great consequences. While we are fighting for more gun rights for Texans, we will also be fighting for higher penalties for those that use those rights to victimize others. We support making crimes involving the illegal use of a firearm much more severe than they already are. A crime that would normally be a Class A misdemeanor, would become a 3rd degree felony. A 3rd degree felony, would become a 2nd degree, and so on. We believe in and encourage the safe and legal carry of firearms and that there should be harsh consequences for using a firearm against another person except in self-defense. We also want stronger laws that will hold government officials legally accountable for violating these rights.

Over the next two years, we will work on finding candidates that support these goals. Once we have an idea of what the landscape will look like, we will begin gathering sponsors for those bills. We will also use the time to educate the public about the recently passed bills and encourage them to take advantage of them. We aren’t going anywhere. With over 50,000 members and growing, we seek to be the predominant gun rights group in Texas that takes a no compromise approach to the fight.  The time of capitulation and begging is over.


CJ Grisham is the president and founder of Open Carry Texas. He is also a retired Army First Sergeant with over twenty years of active military service and two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is married with three kids and currently working towards a law degree while contemplating a run for state senate.

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  1. “We support making crimes involving the illegal use of a firearm much more severe than they already are.”

    …because robbing somebody at gunpoint is sooo much worse than robbing somebody at knifepoint.


    …because ‘gun crime’ isn’t demonized enough already.

        • 100% serious. Exactly the same thing.

          Ahhh.. now I get it. Dustin, are you one of the Chipotle Ninjas?

          I don’t get the how Chris Kyle shirts relate to rifle-OCing losers in Chipotle, but whatever. If you think you can silence or shame people who disagree with you by trying to equate their words with completely unrelated words you think should disgust people, then you’ve got a thing or two to learn about transparent, inartful manipulation. Also, Chipotle Ninja Chipotle Ninja Chipotle Ninja Chipotle Ninja Chipotle Ninja.

          I wonder what Chris Kyle’s actual thoughts were on rifle-OCing losers who showed up at restaurants, btw. Food for thought (see what I did there, with the food reference?)..

  2. And how many of you are going to label OCT mouth-breathing neckbeards. You may not like their tactics, but you have to give credit where credit is due; all the rabble rousing they did produced some positive results. That’s the thing about freedom; it’s messy. I am proud of my fellow RKBA folks, regardless of their tactics. Nobody ever accomplished anything by sitting on their laurels.

  3. He has a long view. Maybe I should send my NRA dues to the OCT instead, looks like they get results.

  4. The ‘conditioning’ of Austin is going to be exquisite…


    Is the sound stage for ‘Austin City Limits’ posted no-carry?

  5. By all means go for constitutional carry as an ultimate goal, but I would start with permitless open carry (like open carry in general the majority of states already have it, it’s just not as big of a majority) and more work on getting the disorderly conduct statute changed. Both short term and long term goals are usually needed to get anywhere.

    • Constitutional carry really ought not to include the caveat “if you can legally carry.” It should be: “if you can inhale and exhale.” Noone hiding behind the term “legally,” has ever been trustworthy enough to cede one’s ability to carry weapons to.

    • I agree that TX is ripe for a Constitutional Carry campaign.

      First, it’s critical that Texans OC. If they don’t follow through and exercise the right then the benefit of the OC campaign will have been largely lost. Conversely, if Texans make sure that every voter in the Lone Star State sees someone OCing on most ventures out of the house, then the pearl-clutching in metro precincts will be relaxed.

      I have a suggestion. NOT as an ALTERNATIVE to Constitutional Carry, but rather, as bait: simultaneously campaign for a reduction in the onerous provisions of your carry permit law. Reduce the fee for a permit and eliminate it for the poor, vets, senior citizens. Reduce the training requirement to be in line with other States’ requirements.

      There are 4 possible outcomes:
      – neither passes
      – both pass
      – Constitutional Carry passes but not relaxation of permits
      – relaxation of permits passes but not Constitutional Carry.

      The first concern will be whether relaxation of permits might undermine Constitutional Carry. This is possible if Democrats see that they have to vote for something and relaxation of permits allows them to do so while voting against Constitutional Carry. You Texans have to do your vote counting to see if this is a realistic possibility.

      If you don’t get Constitutional Carry on this next attempt would you be better off with or without relaxation of permits? Democrats who vote against relaxation will have to defend their vote to their constituents. What is their policy? Isn’t it “No guns for Mexicans (and other poor people)?” Is it that they are so greedy for permit revenue that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of people who can’t afford the permits and high training barriers? What is the “common sense” behind high fees and high training costs? A relaxation of permits bill for Democrats to vote against puts them into mighty sharp focus as Texas grows more comfortable (under OC) with guns in the public square.

  6. If anything OCT has opened the eyes of people as to what really happens in the Texas House. We have a House Speaker who stays in power by pandering to democrats, and protecting Republicans who don’t want to stand up and do the right thing, hell they wouldn’t even pass a clean ethics bill. I spoke to my state senator and rep, they both said they would vote yes for Constitutional Carry today, but they think it will take 20 years for leadership to even allow it to come to a vote.

  7. Right on, CJ! I’ll be openly carrying my Glock not for any tactical purposes, but for the conditioning of both pro- and anti-gun people, as well as the fence-sitters. To show antis it’s not scary, to show pros that it’s okay, and to eventually not even be noticed by everyone in between.

  8. “Unfortunately, some departments tried to prevent us from having our events and we were forced to inform them that we weren’t asking them for permission, just giving them the courtesy of a notice.”

    Nice….build a playbook, convert to PDF and perhaps the rest of the states will follow.

  9. If we keep calling carrying of weapons “Constitutional Carry” it becomes only a matter of time before we bait the Supreme Court into taking up the issue and future Court judges WILL BE anti-gun.
    This movement will come back to bite us.

    • Another tubgirl gun owner…

      “Quick, crap in your own face so that no one else will feel compelled!” Then you can say you “won” because nobody else crapped in your face…

      Since when did it become so easy to confuse “winning” with “giving up in advance of there even being a fight?”

  10. “The only thing left was to convince our lawmakers that the time had come to cast away the remnants of Jim Crow”
    ^ THIS

  11. Begging for our rights had gotten us nowhere in the past so it was time to demand.

    Which is a lesson yet to be learned by the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who ridicule OCT as “Chipotle Ninjas.”

    • This. Those who sit on their thumbs enjoying the efforts of others, while mocking them for it…

      Of course it makes a stir. Or course it rocks the boat. Of course it pisses off the left. Of course it’s socially unacceptable because the left has trillions of dollars worth of free brainwashing in the media…

      Those who expect defiance of social programming and leftist lies to be popular and pretty need to read a book.

      those who say “Chipotle Ninja” may as well put on a “Fuck Chris Kyle” shirt. Exactly the same thing.

  12. Awesome! Keep it up!!!

    From a practical standpoint, open carry has the nice side effect of encouraging people to carry guns that are less compromised by the need to be small and concealable. And, if practiced wildly, it will even lead to the resurgence of more beautiful, less purely functional arms and holsters. Given the number of Petroleum Club members in many TX cities, perhaps even the Cheese Eaters at Hermes and LV will start designing carry gear.

  13. Yeah, OTC doesn’t carry an ounce of credibility with me. I give TTAG far more credit getting me to contact my reps and push for the 2A bills (for all the good it did, sometimes you just can’t win in the few blue zones TX has…).

  14. CJ paid some heavy dues in dealing with both Shannon and the Moms and the Ninjas but, not being a dummy, he rather quickly figured out how to play the PR game as well or better than the paid professionals. Typical cosmopolites, they had him figured for some no-skill bozo, something that proved to be both a big mistake and their ultimate undoing. Would we have had open carry (limited—but still a victory) or campus without his doing a lot of heavy lifting with the state legislature? CJ and Open Carry Texas did Texas a great service. It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gotten stopped on that back road by a nosy deputy.


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