We’ve all heard tales of the Old West, the days of Wyatt Earp, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett. Those stories of the outlaw gunslingers and the men who brought them to justice. The days when men (and women) carried a six-shooter on their hip, or a rifle on their shoulder, ready for any danger that might come their way.
In Texas, it seems the LoneStarState is reluctant to let go of those bygone days, choosing instead to enact laws that protect a citizen’s Second Amendment right to carry firearms. In recent legislation, several bills were passed and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry which give Texans easier access to and less governing laws in order to carry firearms.
DWA—Driving While Armed
With the new Texas gun laws and Motorist Protection Act, Texans are more easily allowed to carry loaded handguns and keep them within reach in their vehicle as long as the firearm is concealed. However, shotguns and rifles, also known as long guns, do not need to be concealed or kept in a gun safe and also may be within reach and loaded.
In an effort to keep institutions from enacting their own firearm restrictions, SB 1907 ”Firearms in Cars” (passed and made effective September 1, 2013), also prohibits public and private colleges and universities from adopting or enforcing policies that restrict the possession, transportation and storage of any lawfully-owned firearms and ammunition by concealed handgun licensee in their locked, privately-owned motor vehicles while driving through or parking on campus.
Carte Blanche Carry?
Even though the LoneStarState has allowed easier carry laws for its citizens, there are still regulations in place, regardless of whether the weapon is carried on the person or in the vehicle. These include not carrying while a person is intoxicated; at an amusement park if the park has given notice prohibiting weapons; in a place of worship (if notice is given); in a hospital or nursing home (notice given); any correctional facility or within 1000 feet of said facility (including in one’s vehicle); in any court or office used by the court; at any polling place on Election Day; at any meeting of any governmental body if proper notice is posted; at any racetrack; inside any passenger transportation vehicle for a private or public school; at or on the premises of any establishment licensed for the sale of alcohol; and inside the secured area of any airport.
1813 to 2013
Once upon a time, the territory of Texas was one of the most dangerous places you could find yourself in, with battles between the Mexican people fighting to retain their claimed land and the newly arrived Americans, in addition to the Native Americans struggling to remain on the soil their ancestors occupied for thousands of years. Back then, it was a necessity to be well armed and ready to defend oneself.
Times have changed for the most part, although some would argue that with gangs and drug lords, our modern society is just as dangerous, or maybe even more so than that of two hundred years ago. So, although Texas has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the United States, it is clear that they are most interested in keeping their people safe in enacting laws to prevent the rogue gun owner from taking matters into his own hand.
But, just remember: If you travel to the second largest state in the Union with the idea of causing trouble, slinging guns and shooting up the place ala Jesse James, you’re just as likely to run into a whole pack of Wyatt Earps and Sam Houstons ready to bring you to justice. Or maybe even Chuck Norris
Does Concealed Carry Make Texas Safer?
In the fall of 1991, future Texas state representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp, witnessed the attack of an armed gunman on a restaurant full of people. George Hennard drove through the glass window of Luby’s Cafeteria, got out of his truck, and started killing people, including both of Hupp’s parents. He brought the body count to 24 when he was wounded by the police, and put a gun to his own head.
Though considered one of the more gun-friendly states in the Union, Texas did not have a concealed carry permit law until 1995. Unlike some victims of armed attackers, Hupp believed that an absence of pro-gun legislation was the reason she had not been able to stop the slaughter. Texas law, according to her testimony before Congress, was strict enough at the time that she had felt it necessary to remove the handgun she usually carried in her purse, leaving her helpless in the face of a killer.
Her political activism is cited as one of the reasons then-Governor George W. Bush signed a concealed carry law in 1995, allowing Texans to carry handguns in public, except in specifically restricted areas. These locations include schools, polls, racetracks, anywhere there is posted signage prohibiting concealed carry entry, and within a thousand feet of a location where an execution is taking place. Disregarding these prohibitions is a third degree felony.
Did It Help?
That’s the real question: does allowing people to carry weaponry actually keep crime down? Gun control activists think not. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign, as well as legislators like Senator Dianne Feinstein, have been pushing for more and stricter gun laws for years, hoping to keep armed criminals at bay through background checks, magazine limitations, and lessening production. As mayor of San Francisco, Feinstein succeeded in banning handguns in her city. It was a personal and very real battle for Feinstein, who had replaced Mayor George Moscone, when he was assassinated in 1978.
But the numbers don’t lie. The 1995 Texas gun laws, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, made Texas a safer place to live. Overall crime declined from 665.4 to 561 per 100,000. Texas murders fell 50% faster than the national average immediately after the law was signed, and rape rates fell 500% in the year afterwards.
While this legislation may have made the overall state crime rates go down, concealed carriers still worry about being targeted by the police. But local law enforcement are usually well aware of the numbers. A carrying citizen is a prepared citizen, and statistics support this. According to Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, who published an article on the subject in “The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology,” 80% of gun defenses involve someone defending themselves with a handgun that was concealed. That is a huge number of people who might be dead if they had left their gun at home.