As January 1 approached, the day Texas’s new open carry law took effect, it seemed gun rights advocates were poised to savor a big victory. The legislation, coupled with a measure allowing guns on college campuses, was the result of a hard fought and widely publicized battle in the state capitol that culminated with Texas becoming the 15th state to allow the open carry of handguns with proper licensing.
But within just 11 days, the attitudes on display on a popular message board suggest that some Lone Star State open carriers worry that the push to expand their rights may have done more harm than good.
In a post on TexasCHLForum.com, a popular gun rights website moderated by National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton, one user reported that the new law has triggered private business owners to not only exercise their right to bar open carry on their premises, but prohibit concealed handguns as well. Any private business in Texas that wishes to bar firearms must display a strictly regulated sign — dubbed “30.07” for openly carried guns, and “30.06” for concealed firearms. Amid the controversy over open carry, this gun owner was noticing more of both varieties.
“Got an email from work telling us that not only are 30.07 signs going up over the weekend on our office building but 30.06 as well. What makes this even more frustrating is I have yet to see a single open carry,” wrote a user with the handle LTUME1978, before predicting in a subsequent comment that, at least in Houston, “Once the signs are up, they are not ever going to come down.”
Gun rights activists have adopted a rigorous campaign to police the state's strict regulations over signs barring guns in private establishments.
That original post generated more than 100 replies, and numerous theories. Some Texas CHL users speculated that the increase in notices barring concealed weapons may be due to a revision to the existing 30.06 sign that was ushered in by the new open carry legislation. Older 30.06 signage was rendered obsolete by the change — and signage is something that Texas gun rights advocates actively police.
“Just as easy to have both 30.06 and 30.07 signs made at the same time,” a user named Distinguished Rick replied. “We have lost more than we gained,” he added. “I have had my CHL 20 years this year and I hardly ran into any legal signs back then. This has woken up the anti-crowd in a big way. So now the genie is out of the bottle and I don’t see a way to put it back.”
A user with the handle bmwrdr echoed his concerns: “Before the OC [open carry] movement started everything went smooth, now we see more and more 30.06 signs erected.”
Another user, posting as flowrie, theorized that the backlash generated by the open carry movement, which was itself driven by the gun rights group Open Carry Texas (OCT), was so spectacular that it may as well have been an opposition plot. “OCT has hurt much more than helped. I insist on carrying when taking my young son and wife to the movies, but that is now becoming more difficult. I do not really oppose OC, but the way they went about it was unwise and just down right ignorant. I too wonder if some of them are anti-2A [Second Amendment]. If I were anti-2A, that’s how I would do it.”
“We were free to carry concealed at far more places before than now. You have the exact same ability to be safe carrying concealed as openly. Except that now you can’t do either in many places. So you’re not safer at all. Open carry is not a right. It’s a dress code and comfort issue. You were already freely bearing arms before 1 Jan. You’ve given up safety for comfort and lost and freedom [sic] for all of us.”
“The immature, selfish actions and the loud, belligerent mouths of a few have hurt many,” Oldgringo concluded. “It’s true, all that glitters is not gold.”
Others had a more measured responses. “I would LOVE to OC everywhere I go,” Lynyrd wrote. “The fact is, it makes some people uncomfortable. Time may change that, but it will take years.” He cautioned his fellow gun owners to remember that “most all of the places we go outside our homes is still PRIVATE PROPERTY.” (Business owners can verbally notify open-carrying customers that they are not welcome in their establishments, regardless of whether a sign is posted or not.)
Weighing in again, the original poster, LTUME1978, felt that for Texas’s concealed carriers, the damage had been done. “The lid is off this can of worms and it will never go back,” reads a later post in the thread. “I hope the right to walk around looking like Wyatt Earp is worth it to the open carry folks because a lot of us are loosing our right to concealed carry and it may cost some of us our lives for your privilege to play cowboy.”
Last week, Charles Cotton, the NRA board member who moderates Texas CHL, weighed in on the public’s reaction to the new open carry law. “I truly wish that open-carry supporters would admit that they were wrong and that there is a problem,” he wrote in response to a post entitled “I now regret that OC passed.” “However, I won’t hold my breath. If I cannot carry my self-defense handgun into a store because they put up 30.06 and 30.07 signs, then someone’s ability to show their handgun to everyone will have cost me the ability to defend myself.”
[Photo: Flickr user Paul Weaver]