The open carry movement in Texas is becoming mainstream. Texas is one of a few states where openly carrying a holstered, modern handgun is barred by law from most public places. This anomaly in the law occurred because Texas was on the losing side of the Civil War, or War Between the States, if you prefer. There is a convoluted history to explain it, but before the war, the Texas Constitution guaranteed an absolute right to carry arms, even for slaves. After the war, the change through two Constitutional conventions resulted in losing the protection for arms that were "worn" such as handguns and large knives. The carry of long guns is still Constitutionally protected.
Second Amendment supporters have lobbied to restore the state of the law to protect the open carry of short arms, but have been frustrated by parliamentary manuvers in the legislature.
This year they have started to demonstrate with openly carried rifles and shotguns, to push for the legal open carry of handguns. Several people have been arrested, but charges have been slow to appear. The public reaction is growing more supportive with time. From the star-telegram.com:
With AR-15s, Mossberg 20-gauge shotguns and modified AK-47s slung over their shoulders, gun-rights activists received thumbs up, handshakes and honks of approval Thursday night as they distributed information to motorists who rolled down their windows at a busy Mansfield intersection.Arlington is not small town Texas, where such celebration of second amendment rights would be expected. It is in the heart of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and the wide approval shows that Gun Culture 2.0 is becoming mainstream in much of the the United States. The article in the Star-Telegram has a virtual photo essay celebration of the open carry movement in Texas. From the article:
The demonstrators were from the Tarrant County chapter of Open Carry Texas, whose mission includes lobbying legislators to enact less-restrictive gun laws, educating residents about their right to openly carry shotguns and rifles safely, and helping the public feel comfortable around those who do.
Open Carry Tarrant County was formed about eight months ago and has about 900 members, Watkins said. During organized walks in various Tarrant County cities, members typically carry or wear long-barreled guns or pre-1899 black powder revolvers or replicas of those revolvers, he said. The group is pushing for the state to allow residents to openly carry pistols.I doubt that there is another activist group in Tarrant County that can boast of 900 members, with the possible exception of the Right to Life movement. The article mentions the opposition to the group:
The Arlington Police Department has shown up with as many as a dozen officers to monitor the demonstrations and has detained members in the past, Watkins said. It’s the only department the group has had problems with, he said.
Officers were initially dispatched to investigate an Open Carry gathering at Road to Six Flags and Collins Street on March 27 after the city received four 911 calls, reviewed by the Star-Telegram, including one from a man who said, “I don’t feel safe when someone is walking around with a shotgun.”It is significant that the article mentions *one* call where the caller said that they did not "feel safe". This response is similar to what open carry groups have experienced across the nation. Most calls are simply to determine if the practice is lawful or not. Only a smattering of calls actually deal with "safety" concerns, and those may well be by the minority of those politically opposed to the second amendment. Anti-second amendment types have exhorted people to call the police on Internet forums. Some have asked callers to "enhance" the call by falsely accusing open carriers of threatening people, and false accusations of open carriers have been made.
The more common response is shown in a transcript of the Culver 5 situation in Wisconsin:
This sort of scenario has been replicated numerous times for open carriers. It shows that the open carry events are doing what they are designed to do: educate the public about the existence of the right, and normalize the practice.
* Operator: You're safe right where you are, you think?
* Caller: Yea, we are. But there's the place is full of people.
* Caller: It's just the strangest thing I've seen.
* Caller: So I just wanted to let you know in case it wasn't right.
* Operator: Uh Hm. Ok. Well, not threatening anyone that's really
what we're worried, concerned about right now.
* Caller: No. They're just sitting there extremely relaxed.
* Operator: I do believe now that it is um just for your information
it was asked by the state Attorney General that it is legal to be
armed in Wisconsin if they're not threatening or someone is not
disturbed by the uh by your weapon.
* Caller: I didn't know that.
* Operator: Yea.
Notice how the Madison police "Operator" above not so subtly changes the Attorney General opinion in Wisconsin. The Attorney General never said that open carry would be legal if "someone is not disturbed". Later, the law was changed to make clear that people openly carrying guns was *not* disorderly conduct.
Both Republican and Democrat Governor candidates in Texas have said that they will support legalization of open carry of handguns. It seems likely that the open carry movement will be successful in reforming the law during the next legislative session.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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