Texas Monthly’s Burka Blog has been reinvigorated with the retirement of its namesake, Paul Burka, the terrific analysis of Erica Grieder, and the new hire, longtime reporter (and former Burka blogger) R.G. Ratcliffe. We’ll miss Burka for many reasons but I’m enjoying the new direction.
In his first post this time around, Ratcliffe puts to rest the meme that “44 states have open carry, why doesn’t Texas” by destroying the myths surrounding that meme. Here is a sample from his post “Not Such a Simple Picture“.
Probably the biggest misleading fact thrown out by the advocates of open carry is that Texas is some sort of laggard among the states in allowing handgun owners to openly carry their firearm. Governor Greg Abbott has said repeatedly that 43 states have some form of open carry laws and once declared, “If open carry is good enough for Massachusetts, it’s good enough for the state of Texas.” While Massachusetts might technically be called an open carry state, like many states there are numerous restrictions that make gun ownership far more restrictive than Texas advocates would admit, and Massachusetts just last year added additional restrictions to its laws.
Essentially, to openly carry a handgun in Massachusetts, a gun owner has to have a permit from a local police chief, and gun owners find it more difficult to get such permits the closer they come to major urban areas. The national advocacy group OpenCarry.org describes Massachusetts this way: “Massachusetts is not a traditional open carry state, but it is not a crime for Class A License holders to open carry. However, it is reported that some jurisdictions will use this as an excuse to revoke permits.”
I think that if you take the time to read the post, you’ll have a much better understanding of why Speaker Straus and other Republican leaders think it is going to be a tough sell in the House.
It isn’t in his post but in the comments Ratcliffe also puts to rest the idea that requiring a license for open carry instead of unrestricted open carry (what supporters call constitutional carry) is somehow an affront to the constitution. He quotes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the Heller decision:
Heller v. the District of Columbia wiped out the idea that the Second Amendment only applies to the keeping of arms as part of a militia.
But Scalia also wrote that does not mean the government is unable to regulate firearms. To lift a quote from the opinion: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”
So open carry with a permit or constitutional carry are policy issues for the Legislature to decide, but if the law is kept the way it currently is, that does not mean lawmakers are spitting on the Constitution.
I personally don’t care either way about open carry. I have a concealed permit and rarely carry a weapon and I doubt that I’d strap on a holster and walk around Houston with my 357 or Glock 17 on my hip if it were legal to do so. I wouldn’t want to end up like this dude. But if you want to, and you can convince enough lawmakers to make it legal, more power to you. I’m not certain that Rick Casey is right about relying on etiquette to keep people from carrying if it is legalized because I don’t see a lot of etiquette in today’s society. I do hope that if any open carry bill passes that it would require the same type of licensing that the current concealed carry requires.
In truth, I think all the noise around this issue is being ginned up to further divide the Texas Republican party. And that’s a shame because I think that the vast majority of November Republicans are either against open carry or, like me, just don’t care about the issue. But until those November Republicans decide to vote in the primary and take our party back, we’ll continue to be barraged with noise about inconsequential issues and be subjected to “wild men” making us the party of weird.