Proposal to Allow Texans to Openly Carry Handguns

Would amend 'concealed carry' legislation
By Jim Forsyth
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For fifteen years, Texans who have completed a safety course have been allowed to carry concealed handguns. Now there's a proposal to allow Texans to carry those handguns right out in the open, 1200 WOAI news has learned.

The group is called 'Open Carry' and spokeswoman [sic] Mike Stollenwerk tells 1200 WOAI news it would not result in Texans carrying guns in those floppy hip holsters like John Wayne in western movies.

"Modern gun owners carry their guns in modern holsters, which are typically made of black plastic with straps or clamps," Stollenwerk says. "It looks very normal."

He says many passersby would not even notice that a person was carrying a gun in public, and he says we have gotten so used to a wide variety of law enforcement officers...from police to security guards, carrying guns in the open, the idea of seeing civilians do it would not be a shock.

Texas outlawed the open carrying of firearms in the 1880's. In fact, enforcing the laws forbidding carrying firearms in public inside city limits was, for a time, one of the key duties of the Texas Rangers.

Stollenwerk says it would be a matter of 'personal preference,' and he says when it's hot in Texas during the summer, many gun owners feel uncomfortable carrying guns under their clothes.

"Some people think that open carry deters crime," Stollenwerk said. "But others say concealed carry is better because it allows (a potential criminal) to be surprised."

He says there is no research indicating whether concealed carry or open carry is better in stopping crime, but he says there is plenty of evidence that allowing citizens to carry guns is a deterrent to crime.

But opponents immediately jumped on the proposal, saying it would lead to a 'Wild West' situation.

"There is no evidence that suggests that 'open carry' would be a good idea," said Nina Vinik of the Legal Community Against Violence. "There is no evidence that it would make anyone safer, or that it would have any impact at all on crime."

Stollenwerk, who is a retired Army officer and was once stationed at Ft. Hood, says by definition, it would not be necessary to obtain a 'concealed handgun permit' to carry a handgun that would not be concealed.

"What Texas might want to do is go the 'middle option' and allow the people who hold the concealed carry permit to also open carry," he said.

So far, the proposal is still in the discussion phase, with Stollenwerk and other activists obtaining signatures on an on line petition. No bill allowing 'open carry' has been prepared for the upcoming session of the Legislature.