Friday, February 6, 2015
Open carrying of handguns on fast track | Last Word
The open carrying of handguns in Texas is now on the fast track, at least in the state Senate.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was whacked upside the head last week when he suggested there weren’t enough votes in the Senate.
The folks who want to take us back to frontier days branded Patrick a traitor for being so passive in his pursuit of well-armed liberty.
One group urged its members to “hunt down” Republicans who fudged on campaign promises to pass open carry.
Old Dan got the message and immediately assigned two bills to the State Affairs committee and told them to hop on it.
I don’t blame him.
Nobody likes the idea of being hunted down.
I urge his colleagues to follow his lead.
Not that I’m itching to carry a gun on my hip.
But I’m not much concerned that other people want a law to allow the practice.
The reality is that allowing “open carry” doesn’t mean that we’ll find ourselves living in a Western movie.
I expect very few people to avail themselves of the freedom.
The reason is simple.
In modern America, openly wearing guns in public is impolitely aggressive.
I know the people pushing the bills don’t believe it is – or at least they don’t believe that it should be.
But it is.
Ask yourself this:
If you have a party – not a costume party, but just an ordinary party – and somebody shows up with a gun, are you going to invite him next time?
And likely he’ll get the hint.
You won’t have to say on the invitation: “Business casual, no weapons.”
Why do I have confidence that “open carry” won’t make for much change?
Out of the 50 states in this great nation, 44 allow “open carry” of handguns.
Yet even in Western states such as Arizona, Montana and Colorado, you don’t see a significant number of people striding into Starbucks with holsters on their hips.
For all we’d like to think otherwise, Texas isn’t all that different from the rest of America.
The vast majority of Texans would view gun toters as either dangerous, overly paranoid or insecure in their manhood.
Or all three.
Years ago my favorite political columnist – Judith Martin, who writes for the Washington Post under the name “Miss Manners” – argued that we didn’t need a law to ban flag burning.
She said such bad manners should be handled through the force of common etiquette.
We should simply shun the offenders.
Seen any flag burnings lately?
The same will work with the aggressively attired.
Another argument for allowing “open carry” might be called the civil rights argument.
The Texas law banning the openly carrying of handguns dates to 1871.
Historians tell us it wasn’t fully enforced, but was useful in controlling uppity former slaves.
California didn’t suffer through Reconstruction.
It banned carrying of loaded weapons in California cities in 1967.
The newly-formed Black Panthers had been wielding guns in public for months.
In the wake of the murders of civil rights workers in the South, of the bombing of black churches, and of continuing harassment by police in Northern cities as well, they argued that blacks needed weapons for self defense.
The bill passed shortly after Bobby Seale and 30 other Black Panthers marched into the State House wielding .45-caliber pistols, 12-gauge shotguns and .357 Magnums.
The subsequent legislation was supported by the NRA, and signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan.
After signing the bill, Reagan said he supported the 2nd Amendment but saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
I haven’t heard Dan Patrick or any of the groups who are pushing for “open carry” make the civil rights argument – that the laws were originally passed to suppress blacks.
But there it is.
So remove the laws.
Let’s rely on etiquette.