If public anxiety continues regarding the state’s open carry gun law set to go into effect Friday, it’s primarily due to insufficient knowledge or understanding. This was most recently demonstrated by a local judge insisting to county officials that it would be “insanity to allow people to carry weapons in the courthouse who are not peace officers or part of the security detail or here on official business as law enforcement officers.”
Such shooting from the hip is not helpful to the public.
Handgun open carry requires possession of a concealed handgun license (CHL). Handguns have been carried by Texas citizens since CHLs were first issued in 1995. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Regulatory Services Division, Texas had 922,197 active concealed carry license-holders as of October. Thus a significant number of citizens have been carrying for 10 years — and much longer in yet other states.
All 50 states have provisions for concealed carry, albeit with permitting more difficult in a few. Furthermore, 13 states allow open carry for permit-holders, while 31 states do not even require a permit. One must understand that, with either concealed or open carry, a handgun is still being carried.
Some express concern of innocents being killed by mistake. Yet where are all the incidents of these innocents being inadvertently killed by licensed, gun-carrying citizens? In fact, no such incidents have occurred in Texas.
What about the incidents of police mistaking gun-carrying citizens for criminals, with the latter being shot by Texas peace officers? Again, no such incidents have occurred.
Neither has the “Saturday in Dodge City” scenario, where a number of carrying citizens end up shooting at each other.
Since almost any scenario of concern equally applies to both concealed and open carry, concealed carry history merits examination. Crime Prevention Research Center reports studied the period of 2005-2007. The rate of police officers facing weapons violations was 0.02 percent. By comparison, the study reports the Florida CHL holder rate of weapons violations was 0.008 percent. So police were 21/2 times more likely to have a weapons violation than a Florida CHL holder.
The 2013 Texas conviction rate for CHL holders was a minuscule 0.3 percent (source: DPS Regulatory Services Division). Please note this includes many crimes unrelated to concealed carry.
What conclusions can be reached from historical data?
The CHL approval process is both adequate and working. The bloodbath predicted by liberals when CHL became law has been nonexistent. Overall, CHL holders are overwhelmingly law-abiding. And CHL is required for handgun open carry under the new Texas law.
CHL holders are exhibiting common sense. This is evidenced by the absence of innocent bystanders and carrying Texans being shot.
Handgun carrying protects law-abiding citizens. Not a month has gone by that at least one carrying citizen has not stopped a crime. A Crime Prevention Research Center study revealed that more than 11 million Americans hold concealed carry permits (compared to some 4.5 million in 2007). As concealed carry permits skyrocketed 146 percent, murder and violent crime rates plummeted by 22 percent.
Will open carry create some unease? Sure, at first. But this will fade with time, as demonstrated in other states that have allowed open carry for years.
And criminals and those not legally allowed to possess weapons will continue to carry concealed if at all. Why indeed would they risk being asked if they hold a CHL, immediately followed by certain arrest?
And if someone intends to conduct a criminal attack involving firearms at the county courthouse, a sign forbidding carry (open or concealed) will have zero effect on the perpetrator. Gun-free zones have yet to stop an attack. Someone intent on disobeying laws regarding murder and mayhem certainly has no respect for our laws governing the carrying of weapons.
As with concealed carry, carrying citizens, whether openly or otherwise, are part of the solution rather than a problem. The sight of a six-shooter on a hip should ultimately be comforting rather than concerning.
Brent Doty has served in manufacturing and operations management for more than 30 years. He has served on the boards of directors for various organizations, including corporations, chambers of commerce and churches. He lives in Robinson.