30 May 2010

Open Carry Push In Texas

Star Telegram

Gun-rights advocates pushing for open carry law in Texas

Posted Saturday, May. 22, 2010



Texas is considered to have some of the most permissive gun laws in the nation, but gun-rights advocates are making it one of their top political targets because it is one of a handful of states that don't allow handguns to be carried openly.

"It's shocking that Texas, with its history of rugged individualism that the state symbolizes, doesn't allow open carry," said John Pierce, a co-founder of and spokesman for www.OpenCarry.org. If the Legislature doesn't approve an open-carry bill when it convenes in January, "then we'll see them in 2013," Pierce said, referring to that session of the Legislature.

Texans have been able to get licenses to carry concealed handguns in most places since 1995. Gun-rights advocates say it's time to let Texans pack their pistols in full public view as well.

Texas -- where it's still not unusual in some areas to see shotguns and rifles on gun racks in pickups -- is one of seven states -- the others are Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma and South Carolina, plus Washington, D.C. -- without an open-carry law.

This month, Oklahoma lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an open-carry bill, only to have it vetoed by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry. The battle there continues as the House fell just short Thursday in a vote to override the veto. Legislators say they may try another override in the closing days of their session this week.

To Marsha McCartney, it doesn't matter what other states do. She doesn't want Texas to expand its gun laws.

"If you see someone with a holster on, are you just to assume this is a law-abiding person?" said McCartney, state president of the North Texas Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "Are you to assume this person is safe to be around your family? People don't know this.

"It's common sense thrown out a window."

The idea of open carry was discussed in the Texas Capitol in 2009 and is expected -- along with other measures to expand Texans' gun rights -- to come up again when lawmakers get back to work in January.

Days gone by?

In Texas, more than 65,000 people have signed an online petition asking Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature to make Texas an open-carry state. Perry says he won't rule it out.

"The governor believes our concealed-carry law works for Texas and that a person ought to be able to carry their weapon with them anywhere in the state if they are licensed and have gone through the training," Perry's spokeswoman Allison Castle said. "He would be open to looking at any proposals lawmakers bring to the table regarding open carry. I suppose we've got what you could call a Texas open carry since you can hang your rifle in the window of your pickup truck."

More than a dozen states require a license for open carry -- Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah. Another dozen allow open carry but don't require licenses -- Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming, according to www.OpenCarry.org.

California allows open carry only in rural areas; the other 16 states are defined as open-carry friendly.

"This is a return to days gone by," McCartney said. "I don't live in a community where I want to see people with holsters. I think others probably feel the same way.

"Where are we going to draw this line? Or are we going to carry them everywhere?"

Legislative push

Pierce said he and other open-carry supporters will start talking to Texas lawmakers soon to see who might be interested in carrying an open-carry bill. In 2009, they focused on state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, because she seemed the most receptive.

In the end, Riddle didn't carry the bill, nor did anyone else.

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, a former Arlington mayor pro tem, said he would consider voting for the open-carry proposal if it got to the House floor, which he said isn't likely. But that would mean that the proposal had significant support from lawmakers and gun-rights supporters in Texas.

But he said two other bills -- one that would let those who were older than 21 and had the right license to carry concealed handguns on college campuses and another to let licensees keep concealed handguns in their vehicles at work -- will likely get the bulk of attention next session. He said he would support those measures, both of which died during the 2009 legislative session.

Alice Tripp, a lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, said Texans lost the right to carry handguns openly, except on their own property, in the 1870s.

"Fifteen years ago, when Texas finally passed their concealed-carry license, it was a major coup," Tripp said, adding that about 400,000 Texans now have a license to carry concealed handguns. "The license is a success."

While the rifle association is working on the measures for guns on campuses and at work, the group would support pro-gun legislation -- such as open carry -- if it got to the House or Senate floor.

'Open carry makes sense'

Texans who signed the petition say they support open carry for various reasons.

"I'm a firm, long time believer in my 2nd Amendment right to keep & bear arms! I hope & pray that the open carry law comes to be in the state of Texas & I urge the powers that be in Texas to make it a law," Tolbert L. Parfnell wrote on the petition.

John Daniels wrote, "Criminals will not rob armed citizens if they SEE the citizen is armed."

Jason W. Traynham wrote: "C'mon Gov. Perry, COYOTES are bad in Williamson County too. ... Open carry makes sense, most are carrying anyway either legal or otherwise."

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