Texas House Committee Passes Open Carry Handgun Bill - Is this a good idea for Texas?

NOTE:  This article is about a bill in the 2011 Texas Legislature.  That bill did not clear Calendars and did not become law.  See new story about 2013 HB 700 in the current legislative session for updated information.

The Texas House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety passed HB 2756 out to the floor for a vote by the entire House of Representatives.  The bill basically removes the word "Concealed" from the "Concealed Handgun License" allowing a person with a Handgun License to carry the firearm either concealed or exposed (Open Carry). The bill was introduced by Rep. George Lavender (R - Texarkana).

Many will see this as a victory for 2nd Amendment supporters, but the bill falls short of what is called "Constitutional Carry" which would allow open or concealed carry, with or without a license as is permitted by many states including Alaska, Arizona and Vermont.  The term Constitutional Carry refers to the 2nd Amendments statement that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

I was attending a law enforcement conference this week in Dallas and had the opportunity to ask many police officers and other firearms industry professionals their opinion of the prospect of open carry of handguns in Texas.  Most officers I spoke with opposed the open carry bill, but for a variety of reasons.  None of these reasons had anything to do with opposing civilians carrying guns.  The concern was more related to the extra training or experience that should be required or necessary in order to openly carry a firearm.  This mainly revolves around weapon retention.  Others opposed the issue saying it takes away the tactical surprise of a concealed weapon.

Other officers spoke in support of the legislation with a couple of different perspectives.  One officer told me he would rather see the firearm exposed than concealed from the standpoint of officer safety.  He said "I would rather know up front what I am dealing with when I apporach someone".  Yet another officer told me he felt open carry might deter crimes from occuring citing the intimidation factor of a robber walking into a store or bank and seeing two or three people openly carrying weapons.

I spoke with one of Texas's leading holster manufacturers and a leading personal defense trainer, Brian Hoffner from Houston.  Hoffner is a strong believer that every law abiding citizen should carry a firearm.  He said however, "I believe this bill is unnecessary.  Open carry removes the element of surprise from the person carrying the firearm and transfers it to the bad guy."  He continued, "The action vs reaction time advantage shifts dramatically to the person committing the crime."  This can be a matter of life and death in this type of situation.  He also stated that the average civilian does not have the training or experience to be able to retain an exposed weapon if it is unexpectedly challenged.

Having carried open and concealed in New Mexico and Arizona, I can tell you I much prefer concealed carry. Carrying an exposed handgun in a convenience store or other public place makes me feel very vulnerable as I must then be constantly aware of who is close enough to me to take away the gun and use it against me or someone else.  Open carry takes away your ability to decide when and more importantly, if to introduce a firearm into a given situation.  You lose many options if the bad guy knows you are carrying.

Whether you support or oppose this bill, now is the time to let your legislators and state senators know how you feel as it will be coming to a vote soon.

Of course, lefties would ask why a citizen would every want to carry a handgun.  Perhaps one of the best answers I ever heard to that question came from my business partner at Blue Wonder Gun Care Products, Will Thompson when he said, "You just never know when you are going to run into a really well armed chipmunk!"  Will, here is he!

 

Comments

The reasons for and against open carry make a lot of sense, but I honestly think everyone is missing the big picture that is sort of hidden in plain sight here. 
Three options are mentioned here, when only one should even matter.  Those are concealed carry, open carry, and CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY!  The only thing that should matter at all is CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY, but that seems to be getting lost in all the dialogue.
By arguing whether concealed or open carry is better is a moot point.  There are four little words in the constitution that say it all:  "shall not be infringed."  Legislatures debating to what degree an American citizen can keep and bear arms is an infringement, plain and simple.  
One need only look to Arizona to see that Texas has nothing to fear when it comes to open, constitutional carry.  The general populace has learned not to fear those that choose to openly carry their firearms and the issues discussed against it here simply aren't a factor there.  However, as a Texan, I'm saddened that I'm pointing our legislatures to Arizona as a beacon of what constitutional carry looks like.  We should be setting the standard, not looking to others for it.  


Hello from Idaho.

It's a good step in the right direction.

"Constitutional Carry" is the way to go. That is, the government should not be infringing on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms:  No permits, background-checks, any sort of requirement, strings. Just a non-issue. Like if you wanted to carry a pair of scissors.

Vermont is that way. Other states or getting rid of their old, "Jim Crow" carry restrictions.

And something I noticed was that a lot of the cops there were carrying both openly and concealed. I think it is telling to note that off-duty cops (on-duty is a wholly different animal) have no more need to carry openly than I do, yet the majority decide to do so. If the training is so important, then I would ask how many of the 600 hours of TCLEOSE instruction focuses on weapons retention. Perhaps there is or should be some language in the bill to address that? Still, that does not alter the tactical principles of surprise and speed and how open carry affects that. If open carry were as problematic as some interviewed have said, then cops would not do it unless they had to, but as I am sure you will recall, most of the cops there chose to do so.

There is also something I think you overlooked. Open carry would decriminalize accidental disclosure. If I am carrying under a sport coat (my preferred method when the weather permits), and a gust of wind blows the coat open, exposing the gun to be seen by a peace officer who, for whatever reason, is having a bad day, then I may suddenly be in handcuffs.

I agree with Bob Price. Don't let the bad guys know if you are carrying a firearm. The bad guy will take care of you before proceeding with his evil deed.

Steve,
Decriminalizing accidental disclosure is the main reason I would like to see open carry laws pass. When I carry concealed I have to carry a small pocket pistol to keep it positively hidden. I would love to carry a larger pistol but I can't under current laws because I could get into trouble for someone accidentally see it when my jacket sits funny. If open carry passes I would carry the larger weapon that I want to and keep it covered with my jacket but not have to worry about getting into trouble for accidental disclosure. I really hope this passes because in my line of work having a good size pistol makes you feel much safer.

My understanding is that Harris County Sheriff's Department recommends deputies off duty carry concealed.  For whatever that comment is worth. But certainly most LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) have more training in self defense than the average CHL person.   

As for the accidental un-concealment issue, I have had problems with that from time to time as well and I prefer to leave my sport coat unbuttoned.  I asked that question to officers and they, to a person, said they would never make an arrest under that type of circumstance unless the person was intentinoally flashing or brandishing the weapon.  That said, we all know there are good cops and bad cops. There are cops who like civilians carrying and those who don't.  There are also those with "by the book" attitudes with zero tolerance.  That said, I have never heard of an arrest for someone who has accidentally exposed a weapon or even for "printing" (where the presence of the concealed weapon is revealed by clinging clothing).

I believe in Constitutional Carry, but in most situations, my choice would be to carry concealed.  However, rights are like muscles.  They must be exerciced to be maintained.

Is carrying a firearm about "feeling" safer CG?  Carrying a firearm does not make you any safer at all.  In fact, if one does not take their training seriously and get additional training, it could even make you less safe. The point to carrying a firearm is to actually be safer.  That means people should shoot on a regular basis, read about situations where citizens have had to make the decision to defend themselves, understand completely what is at stake when you decide to defend yourself, and get as much training as possible so that you can respond properly if the situation arrises where you have to make that terrible decision to take someone's life.

 

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Bob you must be one of those people who likes to hear themselves talk and always right... I agree with training with your weapon off course, but he is not sying he should not train with it, all he is saying is a bigger weapon is better. I much rather to be armed with a glock 19 - 22 range of weapon than a pf9 or a LCP type. Mag capacity, better recoil absortion, better grip 380 vs .40. Anybody knows what they are talking about would agree they would rather to have a glock 22 with 15 rounds or an other full size service pistol of 40 cal rather than Keltec P32 with 8 rounds of 32 cal. Dont get me wrong Keltec is a great company P32 is cool. It is just that carry the most firepower you can if you chose to carry.

And save that drama lecture about "terrible decisions". If your life is in danger, that is a personal decision to defend yourself, and none of your business.

Hurra

Johnny, I am not quite sure what you got your panties in a wad about here.  First of all, Open or Concealed carry doesn't determine the size weapon I decide to carry. I carry a Springfield XD .45 with either 11 or 14 rounds depending on which magazine I decide to carry.  On other occassions I will carry a North American Arms .32 NAA Guardian - smaller gun, but very high velocity round.  

But all that was not the topic of my previous posting. The type, caliber, etc of the gun does not make you safer. It is your preparedness to use the gun that makes you safer. And, hurra all you want, the decision to take someone's life is a terrible decision to have to make and to live with. My point was a person in the position to have to make that decision should be prepared because hesitation and doubt will get you killed.

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