If open-carry (“OC”) is not yet in the morgue, it certainly is in the ICU on life-support. Things were looking much better for OC supporters in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session. The NRA and TSRA have been working on OC since the end of the 2013 legislative session and they had obtained preliminary commitments to file and work bills in the House and Senate. Both Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis came out in support of OC, but only Greg Abbott really meant what he said. Still, it was interesting that the Democrat candidate for the Governor’s mansion felt the need to at least claim she supported OC.
All this changed when groups supporting OC launched a campaign of demonstrations that has generated a huge political backlash. These demonstrations involve carrying long guns into stores and other private property. Some demonstrations are well-planned with prior notice to property owners and the local police or sheriff’s department, but many are impromptu with no prior notice. Still others are nothing more than one or two people choosing to carry their AR-15s into Wal-Mart and taking photos.
At best, the major media are typically lukewarm to Second Amendment issues and they are more often openly hostile to gun rights. The in-your-face style of OC demonstrations gave TV reporters and their cameramen an unprecedented opportunity to take photos and videos of people with AR-15’s and other rifles and shotguns walking into Wal-Mart, Home Depot and other stores. Of course, they then talked to anyone they could find who would express fear and anguish at having their children subjected to such dangerous conduct. Never mind that there was no danger, no one was injured and no one lost any sleep that night. The media successfully attacked the concept of OC and they were able to convince enough Texans that the in-your-face types represented the majority of Texas gun owners that OC is far less likely to pass in 2015.
One of the larger organizations supporting OC purported to abandon the tactics of carrying rifles and shotguns in demonstrations and trips to the grocery store, but other organizations and individuals continue to do so. In spite of calls by experienced legislative advocates, OC demonstrations continue in one form or another, including the carrying of black powder revolvers made prior to 1899 or replicas thereof. While this approach doesn’t seem to have generated the backlash caused by those carrying long guns, it nevertheless keeps the issue on TV news and this works to the detriment of OC.
A question often asked is “can OC still pass?” The answer is an unequivocal “who knows?” Based upon calls and emails to Senators and House Members already made by irate constituents, OC may well be dead on arrival in Austin come January 2015. If there is any chance of passing OC, then it will depend upon OC supporters and groups standing down and being as quiet as proverbial church mice so that the political dust can settle. If their prior responses to calls for a change in tactics is any indication, then there likely will not be a period of calm before the Legislature convenes in January, 2015.