Group wants to carry handguns in plain view

10:46 PM CDT on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Kevin Reece / 11 News

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HOUSTON -- Inside Jim Pruett’s northwest Houston gun store, you can find a gun with a laser sight, weapons of all styles and Jim’s own .45 caliber pistol secured to his hip. When he leaves the store, however, he has to conceal it and keep it out of sight.

That is the law in Texas.

The law could change, and a petition with more than 7,000 signatures so far, is pushing for the state to adopt an open carry law. It would allow a gun owner to carry a handgun in the open for all the bad guys -- and the good guys -- to see.

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“In certain places it would be a good crime deterrent,” said Pruett, a supporter of the group Open Carry.

Opponents see the push for open carry laws as a way to create gunslingers and promote "hotheads" to open fire.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Richard Leal of Texans for Gun Safety Laws. “We’re going back to the gunslinger days, where basically… Here I am; you think you’re faster than I am? Let’s try it.”

Also online

Open Carry Web site

Texans for Gun Safety Web site
As the concealed handgun law in Texas stands now, you can get in trouble for displaying that weapon – even if it’s inadvertent – because it could be construed that you are using it for intimidation. That’s at the center of the open carry debate – is intimidation a bad thing or good thing?

“The bad guys are not worried about the police. They’re not worried about jail. That’s part of their life,” said Pruett. “They’re worried about citizens who are armed and might shoot them.”

Leal sees the open carry laws as wrought with potential for abuse.

“I don’t need to be intimidated by it. That’s not your purpose to intimidate me. But regardless of what your purpose is, it’s how I react to the situation (that counts),” said Leal.

How the governor and legislature react is what both sides of the debate are waiting for next.