Texans Will Make A Big Decision On January 1st. Do They Want A Burrito Or A Gun?

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment gave Americans the Constitutional right to keep a loaded, unlocked handgun in their homes to use for self-defense, the pro-gun nation has been trying to push the notion of armed, self-defense beyond the home and into the street.  This strategy has taken two paths; on the one hand promoting concealed-carry licensing, on the other, bringing weapons into gun-free zones.  There’s nothing but anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime, but there’s plenty of serious research which shows the opposite to be true.

open               The latest effort to widen the scope of armed defense is about to be unveiled in Texas with the law allowing open carry to take effect on January 1st.  This law was the brainchild of a former Army Master Sergeant, C.J. Grisham, who parlayed an argument with a cop over how he was openly carrying a gun into a statewide movement which even made him briefly consider a run for the State Legislature until his campaign ran out of dough. Bottom line is that even though an earlier attempt to promote open carry in Texas was condemned by the NRA, those fearless advocates for gun rights in Fairfax, VA, eventually saw the light and lined up behind the bill that Governor Abbott signed into law.

Believe it or not, I’m really happy to see the open carry law go into effect in Texas, because I think the result is going to be exactly the reverse of what the pro-gun nation hopes to achieve.  First of all, the law has an opt-out procedure known as 30.07, which allows merchants to post signs at the entrance to their establishments stating that only shoppers who carry their guns concealed will be allowed on the premises after January 1st.  And I am frankly astonished at the extent to which major merchandisers in Texas have announced that they will not welcome folks openly carrying guns into their stores.

Take, for example, a company like Simon’s, which operates malls and discount outlets in 39 states.  They run 35 major shopping destinations in Texas, including such flagship locations as the Gateway in Austin, The Galleria in Houston (which includes the first Webster boutique outside of Florida), and the Shops at Clearfork in Fort Worth.  Simon’s is opting out of open carry, and so are major food chains, like H-E-B, which has supermarkets in 150 towns, and national chains like Safeway and Whole Foods.  Opting out of open carry is also now spreading through the religious community, with the Catholic Diocese in Lubbock, Dallas and other areas posting notices that guns aren’t welcome on hallowed ground.

The public discussion over this new law has also given GVP advocates like Moms Demand Action an opportunity to engage store owners and other operators of public venues with their unique message about gun violence, as well as providing 30.07 signage and instructions for opting out of the new law.  Anyone who thinks that Shannon Watts and her ladies aren’t playing a visible role in promoting 30.07 at the grassroots level will be in for something of a surprise as more signage denying access to open carry continues to appear.

I believe that wearing a gun in a public venue does nothing to promote public safety.   And the merchants who have opted out of open carry evidently agree, with most citing concerns about guns endangering rather than protecting their customers, particularly in places where alcohol is served. In that regard I am particularly interested in the fact that Gringo’s Mexican Chicken and Jimmy Changas, two of Houston’s most popular Tex-Mex restaurant chains, will be going 30.07, because if gun folks like to do anything more than argue about the 2nd Amendment, they love to eat. And when all is said and done, I predict that consuming a burrito will turn out to be more important than wearing a gun.

 

 

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There’s Nothing Like Openly Carrying A Handgun To Protect Us Against Everything – Real Or Imagined.

In the weeks following the unspeakable gun violence in Charleston, there was one public voice notably absent, namely, the NRA.  As opposed to the belligerent screed from Wayne-o after Sandy Hook, this time America’s “oldest civil rights organization” kept their collectives mouths shut.  Well, almost all of them did, and the one exception was Charlie Cotton, a Board member from Texas, who quickly posted a statement blaming Clementa Pinckney for hastening his own demise because of his opposition to guns, and then just as quickly took the post down.

open carry                Good ol’ Charlie epitomizes the Mark Twain saying, “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”  And if you don’t believe me, here’s a few samples of other Cotton comments obligingly sent to me by a friend.  In February, he supported a bill that would have eliminated corporal punishment in Texas public schools with this gem: “a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet into him later.”  He once referred to Black-on-Black shootings as “thug on thug,” and in case the readers of his blog didn’t get the not-so-veiled, racist comment he added, “cops know what I really mean.”

In addition to proving his stupidity on issues far and wide, Cotton has also been a driving force behind the NRA-backed gun legislation in the Lone Star State, including the recent law that legalizes “open carry” of handguns in public venues.  The open-carry question has a contentious history in Texas; just last year the NRA publicly scolded a group of Texans who were parading around a fast-food outlet with AR rifles in plain sight, but the ensuing uproar on the part of open-carry activists forced the NRA to back down.

For our boy Charlie, the zeal of open-carry proponents in Texas has been a difficult fence to straddle, given the ambivalence of the NRA towards the spectacle of open-carry demonstrations on the one hand, while not wanting to piss off the open-carry fringe on the other.  In 2013, when then-candidate Greg Abbott was willing to support whatever loony idea would get him a few more votes in the race for Governor, he endorsed the idea of open-carry of handguns, and ol’ Charlie pulled a classic on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand- that, by supporting the legislation but warning Open Carry Texas and other nut-job groups that sitting in Starbucks dangling AR-15s might lead to public “panic.”

Now that open carry of handguns is legal in Texas, our boy Charlie Cotton still finds himself in something of a predicament, because it’s not quite clear what mainstream America thinks about turning every American city into the O.K. Corral.  The NRA’s post-Charleston silence is a pretty clear indication that the whole notion of gun ownership may still be up for grabs, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment.  And this came home to me last night when a friend sent me ol’ Charlie’s latest comment about open carry on his blog, in which he claimed he was still in favor of concealed carry because letting everyone know that you own a handgun might result in you being “attacked or burglarized” if a thug who saw the gun decided to follow you home. For that matter, sitting in IHOP with an unconcealed handgun would make you an immediate target if a “6-man hi-jack team” hits the store intending to do something other than ordering waffles and grits.

Did Charles Cotton, who happens to be a licensed attorney, actually make a public statement conjuring up the image of an IHOP invasion by a “hi-jack team?”  Let’s not forget that Texas is where a serious internet discussion is being carried on by residents who truly believe that a Pentagon-directed military exercise called Jade Helm is actually the beginning of a federal invasion of Texas, followed by martial law and the seizure of all guns.  If Charlie Cotton and the NRA have decided they need such paranoid lunatics to promote the ownership of guns, the gun-sense movement is much closer to victory than they believe.

 

 

A Tale Of Two States: Vermont And Texas Debate Gun Bills.

There can’t be two states in these United States more different than Vermont and Texas, right?  The Green Mountain State is quintessential New England, with picturesque town squares, maple sap running from the trees and let’s not forget America’s only Socialist, aka Senator Bernie Sanders, who just might try to run for President in 2016. And what can we say about the Lone Star State?  Remember the Alamo, the best doggone chili and barbeque this side of the Pecos and the Rio Grande, and a former Governor named Rick Perry who might also try to run (again) for President in 2016.

  Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

But despite the clear contrasts between these two states, in one way they are very similar, and the similarity was on display last week when the two State Legislatures held public hearings on new laws about guns.  In the case of Vermont, the bills being considered would have tightened gun regulations, bringing in background checks on private sales and setting standards for taking guns away from people at risk to others or themselves; in the case of Texas the bills will allow open carry of handguns and end the long-standing practice of considering college campuses to be gun-free zones.

        Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Two different states, two different types of gun bills, but one thing in common, namely, the degree to which the pro-gun community was organized, turned out in force and made arguments which, rightly or wrongly, shaped the public debate.  In Texas the push for open carry was led by an organization called Open Carry Texas which gained notoriety last year when its members publicly disavowed the NRA after the latter organization denounced gun-owning ‘extremists’ who were parading around with their guns.  Last week in the run-up to the legislative hearings on the new laws, a group of open carry agitators not only openly threatened a gun-owning state legislator in his office, but also showed up at the hearing and loudly denounced anyone who would commit ‘treason’ by  not voting the right way.

In Vermont, the debate over a gun bill occasioned the largest turnout at the State House since the debate over civil unions in 2000, and while supporters of the legislation cited personal anecdotes about a family shooting or the psychological damage caused by schoolchildren having to undergo active-shooter training, the prevailing sentiment during the debate was summed up by one female gun enthusiast who said, “If I’m being assaulted on a city street, I’d rather have my .38 with me than a copy of Senate bill 31.” Much of the credit for packing the gallery with orange-shirted gun owners should be given to Gun Owners of Vermont, which says it’s committed to a “no-compromise position against gun control” which is ironic since Vermont has no state-level restrictions on gun ownership or CCW at all.

This is not to say that folks who took a dim view of the proposed gun bills didn’t show up. There’s a group in Vermont  known as Gun Sense Vermont, whose members appeared at the hearing and voiced their concerns.  In Texas, the open carry gang got a little taste of their own tactics when a bodyguard hired by Moms Demand Action allegedly tried to stop Open Carry’s C.J. Grisholm, from filming an interview with a Moms activist by grabbing his phone.  This brief incident occasioned all kinds of heated rhetoric on right-wing blogs about how the Moms group (behind which, of course, is the sinister Watts-Bloomberg combine) has no respect for the 1st Amendment, never mind the beloved 2nd.

I don’t know who is going to win the legislative contest over gun laws in either state, but the pro-gun forces clearly won and continue to win the argument in the public, and certainly the internet space.  The plain truth is that fear-mongering sells, while reasonable and earnest debate gets little or no airtime at all. For that reason, the gun-sense community may need to re-think the manner in which they present their point of view.  In the public argument about guns, opinions seem to trump the facts every time.

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