Fight over open carry gun policy in Texas
10:39 PM CDT on Thursday, July 24, 2008
By JESSICA VESS
Imagine walking down the street and next to someone with a gun strapped to their hip. It's an image a group of Texans are hoping to turn into reality and they're gaining support by the thousands every day.
“This is a basic right,” said former state Legislator, Suzanna Hupp.
In Texas you can fire a gun, you can buy a gun, and you can walk around with a gun, but only if you have a concealed carry permit and the gun is out of sight.
“I feel safer. My home should it be breached, I can take care of it. Should somebody try to take my car, they'll be taken care of too. That's the way it should be,” said gun owner Charles Minter.
However, that’s not how it always works.
“Criminals by their very definition ignore the laws,” said Hupp.
In 1991 a gunman drove his truck into a Luby's restaurant in Killeen, TX. He got out and opened fire.
“That was before we were allowed to carry in the state of Texas,” said Hupp.
Hupp was there with her parents.
“He killed 23 people, including my parents. So I've been fairly angry since that time,” said Hupp.
In 1991 Texas didn't allow people to carry a gun.
“The only thing the regulations did was prevent people like me from being able to protect myself and my family. That's the only thing gun laws and gun control do. They prevent good people from protecting themselves and their families,” said Hupp.
Hupp helped pass the current concealed carry law in the mid 90's.
“It wasn't blood and chaos in the streets when we enacted the concealed carry,” said Hupp.
Now she wants more.
“We should allow people to carry. That means in their pocket, in their purse, on their forehead, on their hip. I don't care how they carry. If they can legally own a gun I think they should be able to carry it in public,” said Hupp.
She's not alone. An open carry petition online is gaining popularity by the thousands every day. More than 21,000 people have already signed the petition online.
“I couldn't have foreseen all the support that I've gained,” said petition creator, Ian McCarthy.
McCarthy posted the online petition in October last year.
“In Texas we're proud of all of our rights especially when it comes to gun rights,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy's petition will likely go to state lawmakers in the next session along with a proposal to enact an open carry policy in Texas.
“We're hoping for unlicensed, open carry,” said McCarthy.
The group is asking for a open carry law like what's already seen in at least ten states in the U.S. Those ten states allow open carry without a license. Another 12 states allow open carry but with a license.
Texas is just one of six states on record that completely bans open carry. However, to some the idea of seeing people with guns, doesn't sit well. Even some gun owners are worried an open carry policy could lead to more crime.
“It might just turn into the wild, wild west,” said Minter.
Those Wild West images where it seemed like everyone had a gun.
Guns in Texas though are pretty much kept to the range.
“I come here to shoot. I don't carry around on the street,” said gun owner, Steven Cui.
Cui is one of many gun owners that think owning a firearm is a privilege, not a right.
“If it's open then everybody's going to be walking around with a gun now. I think it's only for the cops and people that are licensed,” said gun owner, Kyle Ramirez
Others worry open carry will get out of hand.
“You don't want to use a gun just because somebody called you or your mother a bad name. You only want to use a gun when you're in fear for your life,” said gun owner, and owner of the Astro Shooting Range in Florence, TX, L.E. Williams.
“People don't know what they're doing,” added firearms trainer Mike Nellis.
Nellis is a former state officer and now is a firearms trainer for the Texas Department of Public Safety. He supports gun rights; he even had a gun strapped to his belt the entire time we talked, but you couldn't tell by looking at him that he was armed. Nellis says that's the advantage of concealed carry.
“I think if it's going to require having a license and have requirements and there's no difference between that and a concealed carry law you might as well go to a concealed carry license,” said Nellis.
However, for Hupp and the thousands of others who have signed the online open carry petition, the issue boils down to one thing: our Bill of Rights.
“I believe that they will pass it. This time around I think that it will pass,” said Hupp.
State lawmakers are not yet saying how they will vote on the issue.