The following is a headline from a Fox News Online article dated Dec. 14, 2014: Texas considers allowing open carry of handguns In the United States, there are only six states that still ban the open carry of handguns. Texas is one of those six states. Interestingly, 1/3rd of the population of the USA resides in those states. So why is it that Texas, a state that is openly friendly to firearms in almost all aspects that sends most of the anti-gunners screaming up the walls, still bans the open carry of a handgun? That ban will probably change in the next six months! There are already several bills proposed that are aimed at open carry of a handgun (not a long gun, which is already legal) that will be discussed starting with the new legislature in 2015. Our new Governor has already said he will sign an open carry law if it makes it to his desk. The bills that have been filed range from licensed open carry to an “almost purist” 2nd Amendment style “anyone of legal age can carry”. The 2nd Amendment does not set a lower age limit on the right to carry so in the discussion of open carry, this is a “consideration” that has to be taken into account. The Constitution does define why we need to be armed without restriction: “to provide for a militia” which means an armed public who can respond to an armed threat, even though there is a standing military already available. This also provides for the citizen to have a way to protect themselves from armed threats. This is my understanding of the 2nd Amendment. However, there are considerations that must be looked at as we talk about open carry of handguns in Texas.
As one who openly supported the “Concealed Carry License” law of 1995, and one of the people who received a CCL the first month they were issued, I am looking forward to seeing Texas lay aside the final vestiges of 150 years of “Civil War Era Re-construction Law” that made it illegal to carry a pistol. It is the “HOW” we accomplish that feat that is the open concern of many people, including those of us who support open carry. There are “considerations” that must be taken into account by those who are for and those who are against.
Let’s look at some facts before addressing the specifics. When the Constitution of the United States was written in 1790, the population was 3,929,326. There was plenty of danger to go around in order to just survive and the threat of a war on home soil was proved real just 20 years later, supporting the need for the 2nd Amendment. One of my several greats-grand fathers was murdered by Native Americans around 1830. Each person had a reasonable belief that they needed to be able to at least try to protect themselves. In 1836, when the Texas Revolution started that would see the brutality of Santa Anna with massacres at the Alamo, Goliad, and other encounters, there were 5000 Blacks, 30,000 Anglos, 3470 Hispanics, and 14,200 Native Americans in Texas. The Census of 2010 totaled a staggering 25,145,561 people in Texas! That is a lot of people! Texas did not issue the first license to drive a motor vehicle until April 1, 1936. The license required a test. One of the reasons stated for the license was to decrease the number of deaths and injuries caused by untrained drivers. Texas did not require law enforcement officers to be trained, certified, and commissioned until Sept 1, 1970, and it did not require security personnel to be trained, certified, and commissioned using a standardized state test and range requirement until around 1987. During the re-construction of Texas after the War between the States, the federal government required Texas to write a new Constitution under which laws were made that restricted the right of citizens to carry handguns either openly and concealed because the re-constructionists who controlled the government apparently worried about someone shooting them. It should be noted that the law was openly disregarded by many Texans but it was still on the books and could be enforced. Life in rural Texas, and there was a lot of rural Texas in the 1860’s included dealing with Indian raids at night, bears and mountain lions, bandits, and many other prominent dangers. I have seen many photos of old time cowboys wearing a single action Colt on their hips with ammo on their belts. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, some more liberal Texas judges became known for their hatred of firearms and would “throw the book” at honest citizens who carried a handgun in their vehicles when traveling between counties or off their property.
So how do the above facts fit the present situation. First, The 2nd Amendment does guarantee the specific right to be armed. However, it never specifically says what is reserved to the state and what is reserved to the Federal Government. Under the Constitution, what is specifically not reserved to the federal government is specifically given to the state’s. Firearm laws relating to how a state allows private ownership have historically fallen under state’s rights and not the federal government, although the Obama administration and his followers have tried to take control of firearms from the states, which would be an un-constitutional power grab by the liberal of the Fed. For Texas, the real question becomes how should the state regulate open and concealed carry, and not whether it should or should not prevent open carry. Looking back on the history of state licensing of freedoms that can cause harm to others should make one stop to think about open carry licensing in comparison to “no-license required” open carry. We require a license with a proven ability and knowledge of the vehicle laws to drive a vehicle. It has not stopped the death and injury rates involving vehicles but it has reduced them. No one can argue against that point. There have always been good unlicensed drivers in our history. My grandmother drove the first vehicle to be owned by a resident of Corsicana (her father) in 1906. No license required for another 30 years. No one will argue that there have been many exceptional law enforcement officers in Texas who learned on the job. They were never formerly trained in the law and they never had to worry about qualifying with a firearm in order to work. However, after Sept 1, 1970, all law enforcement had to receive formal training and qualify with their weapons to a minimum score/skill level in order to be a certified and commissioned law enforcement officer. Part of the idea of this was to know with a reasonable certainty that if an officer had to use his weapon, he would hit what he shot at without endangering innocent lives. The same holds true for armed security officers in Texas. They have to score a minimum score on both written exams and the firing range in order to receive a commission to work in security. The reason is the same: to know with a reasonable certainty that if an officer has to use his weapon, he will hit what he shot at without endangering innocent lives. In 1995, the Concealed Carry License became law in Texas. The license required a certain number of hours of training in the classroom regarding the law and it required a minimum skill level to be met with the type of firearm they would carry. Again, the expectation in the law was to know with a reasonable certainty that if a person had to use his weapon, he would hit what he shot at without endangering innocent lives.
We have already had both types of open carry bills filed getting ready for the 2015 assembling of our state legislature. I, for one, have given a lot of thought to where I stand on this issue. I am a very ardent believer in the U.S. Constitution and very conservative in my interpretation of its protections that are stated in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to that document. On the other hand, there is a very strong need for the public to be safe. We have the driver’s license (remember vehicles are deadly weapons), the state commissioning of trained and certified law enforcement personnel who carry a firearm in the open or concealed, the training and commissioning of security personnel who wear firearms in the open, and trained and licensed private people who carry a concealed weapon. For these reasons, I have decided that the best way to implement open carry in Texas is through the Concealed Carry License program by changing the Concealed Carry License to a License to Carry. I think the idea of unlicensed/untrained open carry in public (does not apply to private land) is unreasonable and irresponsible at a time when populations have soared to almost unimaginable numbers. There does need to be some form of reasonable assurance that a person who carries a hand gun openly will have a background check and a verifiable training record, just as required by the Concealed Carry License.
I will close with this thought regarding the open carry of a handgun. Concealed Carry works around a principle that you will be able to protect yourself should you be put in a situation where that need is great. It supposedly is to make the criminal wonder if someone has a handgun in a pocket or purse. Open carry works around a different principle, one that was taught in my security training, which also applies to police training: high visibility is the greatest deterrent to crime for the both the public and for personal protection.. If they see the firearm on the intended victim, they will not make that person a victim. The wearing of a firearm in the open (high visibility) by trained people is much more of a deterrent to crime than concealed carry will ever be. It is also much safer to wear a pistol on your hip in a retention holster than it is to carry it in your pocket where it could accidently discharge because of something put into that pocket.