Harmful tactics, inexperienced activists and conflicting personal interests
The 2015 Texas Legislative Session saw the NRA and TSRA pass an open-carry bill (HB910) on the first attempt made by these organizations. (Click here for an article setting out the history of open-carry, prior to the NRA/TSRA success in passing HB910.) HB910 allows Texans holding a License to Carry a Handgun (LTC) (formerly a Texas Concealed Handgun License) to carry their self-defense handguns in a belt or shoulder holster, with some exceptions not relevant to this article.
A small but vocal group claiming to promote unlicensed open-carry was able to persuade a Texas Senator and a Member of the Texas House of Representatives to file two unlicensed open-carry bills, but those bills never even received a public hearing.
After the close of the 2013 Texas Legislative Session and prior to be beginning of the 2015 Texas Legislative Session, the group promoting the doomed bills engaged in tactics that have been labeled “in-your-face” and included carrying rifles in a “tactical sling” and entering stores, restaurants and public buildings, as well as private and public parking lots and streets. Over the top rhetoric by the group’s leader as well as some antics out of state added fuel to the anti-gun fire.
The anti-gun media and Bloomberg-supported anti-Second Amendment organizations had a field day with these ill-advised and counterproductive demonstrations. For well over a year, such tactics alienated the public and unnecessarily caused fear and concern among some business owners and their customers. It ultimately had a negative impact on gun rights in terms of access to certain private businesses.
HB910 went into effect on January 1, 2016. While it was known that passage of an open-carry bill without the in-your-face tactics would likely result in some negative backlash, it would have been very small and easily countered. The above-referenced tactics has resulted in some businesses and churches posting signs (“30.07 signs”) that prohibit open-carry on those properties. Unfortunately, a small percentage of these businesses also posted 30.06 signs prohibiting concealed-carry where it had been allowed for twenty years.
This writer has been contacted by a number of people negatively impacted by newly posted 30.06 signs inquiring whether “something can be done about the new signs.” Other people are upset that they can no longer carry concealed handguns in stores and other businesses where they had been doing so for two decades. It is understandable that these folks are upset because they feel they have lost the ability to defend themselves and their families as a result of the irresponsible and destructive tactics of the few.
The only way to describe the expansion of off-limits areas is collateral damage. While Texans regained the right to wear self-defense handguns without having to hide it under some type of garment, there was a cost. Although the number of additional off-limits areas are relatively few, people do not care about percentages when they feel their safety and security are compromised. Those negatively impacted by the acts of a few can take heart. It is possible to repair the damage caused by this irresponsible group and restore the confidence these few businesses have lost because of negative news reports.
Responsible gun owners need to be statesmen and remember that every time they talk with a small business owner, they are acting as a de facto ambassador for everyone who carries a self-defense handgun, whether openly or concealed. A twenty year track record proves that Texans holding a LTC are the most law-abiding segment of our population and are seventeen times less likely to commit a crime than is the general population. This record is even better than law enforcement that also boasts a tremendous record. If responsible gun owners, by their conduct and interaction with others, distinguish themselves from those few who try to achieve their goal by fear and intimidation, it will not take long to see newly posted 30.06 signs removed from doors and windows.
Shun people, organizations and tactics that tend to paint gun owners in a negative light. This includes any type of action that even gives the appearance that LTCs are pushing the envelope or trying to harass businesses. Remember, no one attracts others to their side of an issue by scaring, intimidating, harassing or insulting others. The current collateral damage was caused by those who did not heed this very basic rule of life.