When you say “It’s all or nothing” you usually get the “nothing” part! Charles L. Cotton
Operating successfully in the political/legislative arena requires experience, insight, finesse, maturity and a statesmanlike approach. Actually, these characteristics serve one well in all aspects of life. Most people learned as a child that when you take the approach that “I will be satisfied only if you give me everything I want,” you usually got nothing. Those who do not learn that lesson early in life do not tend to fare well in business, marriage, parenthood, or just about any other relationship where people have differing desires and values.
The 2015 Texas Legislative Session has barely begun and numerous gun-related bills have been filed. Most would expand Second Amendment rights and only a few would be considered anti-gun by any rational person. Unfortunately, some of the allegedly pro-gun bills would actually harm gun rights unintentionally, but those will either be amended in committee or they will be killed.
Although there are issues of far greater importance to Texas gun owners, no issue has raised to the emotional level as has that of so-called open-carry. This is largely due to the ill-advised tactics used by a small but vocal group of zealots who have neither political experience nor a willingness to take advice from those who have operated successfully in the Texas political and legislative arena for many decades. Prior to the beginning of the 2015 Texas Legislative Session, this small group engaged in counter-productive demonstrations with long guns and, more recently, one such group caused quite a stir in Austin when they behaved despicably in the offices of a House Member.
Several bills that would make it legal to openly carry a handgun have been filed and they fall into two general categories. One group of bills commonly referred to as licensed open-carry bills would remove the duty a Texas Concealed Handgun Licensee has to keep his or her handgun concealed. The other group consists of two bills that would allow Texans to carry handguns openly or concealed without the need to obtain a Texas Concealed Handgun License. These two bills are referred to as unlicensed open-carry bills.
While the ultimate goal of the majority of Texas gun owners, including this writer, is the repeal of all laws that require a license to carry handguns or otherwise restrict Second Amendment rights, the political reality is that most legislative goals must be achieved over more than one legislative session. This is especially true when dealing subjects that many Texans consider controversial or that generate a lot of emotion on both sides of an issue. People who do not understand or accept this reality often doom their own legislative efforts to failure. So it is with some in the unlicensed open-carry movement.
Three self-proclaimed “gun rights” groups have all taken the position that everyone who supports one or more of the licensed open-carry bills is “anti-gun.” In their collective wisdom, if one does not support HB195 and only HB195, then they do not value or respect the Second Amendment. They have vowed to oppose the reelection of any Senator or House Member who does not share their myopic view. They are unwilling to pass licensed open-carry in 2015, then push for unlicensed open-carry in future legislative sessions. Thankfully, these groups cannot impact any elections.
Political maturity requires that one not demand the impossible of elected officials and that one be willing to develop a legislative strategy that spans more than one legislative session. Texans regained the right to carry self-defense handguns with the passage of SB60 in 1995. Every legislative session thereafter saw significant improvements to Texas gun laws and expansion of gun rights. This was possible because both the Texas Legislature and the general public learned that the dire predictions made by those who would deny Texans’ Second Amendment rights were unfounded. In 2007, twelve years after the CHL statute was established, HB1815 was passed giving Texans the right to have a self-defense handgun in their cars without having to get a Texas Concealed Handgun License. Unlicensed car-carry was not achievable in 1995, but it became acceptable to the public when people were no longer fearful of Texans carrying self-defense handguns.
In this writer’s opinion, the most important issue facing Texas gun owners is the removal of all off-limits areas for Texas CHLs. This would mean that CHLs can defend themselves, their families and other innocent persons everywhere in our great State, except where federal law trumps state law. HB308 by Rep. Springer would accomplish this goal, therefore it is the most important Bill for gun owners in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session.
That said, there are other bills that would greatly reduce the number of off-limits areas applicable to CHLs. Currently, these bills include HB695 by Springer and SB311 by Campbell, with more to be filed. While HB308 is the preferred Bill to accomplish the legislative goal, it would be irresponsible to oppose the passage of HB695 or SB311 when both of those bills would expand Texas gun rights. It would be even worse to attack Rep. Springer or Sen. Campbell and label them “anti-gun” and oppose their reelection when they are making an effort to improve gun rights in Texas. Nevertheless, this precisely the approach taken by the three open-carry “organizations” when it comes to HB195 and the licensed open-carry bills.
Every responsible Texas gun owner should support their preferred bills in a calm, rational and respectable manner. Do not make unfounded accusations or threats of political retaliation against Senators and House Members simply because they do not support your preferred bill, but do support bills that will achieve some of your legislative goals. We must not align ourselves with people and organizations that act irresponsibly and we must distance ourselves from their actions by not lending our good names to their cause.
The bottom line is this; some progress is better than no progress and the person who argues otherwise is neither our friend nor our political ally.