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!