Abbott's open carry endorsement rekindles hot debate
Posted on November 27, 2013 at 7:26 PM
Updated Wednesday, Nov 27 at 7:40 PM
AUSTIN -- In his campaign stops for governor, some of Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's biggest cheers come from his advocacy in one area in particular.
Laying out a list of policy proposals at a campaign stop in Belton earlier this month, Abbott's endorsement of "campus carry" and expanded "open carry" laws drew the strongest applause.
The internet has been filled with video taken by people lawfully carrying long guns in the open, often resulting in tense confrontations with law enforcement officers. While state law allows rifles and shotguns to be legally carried in the open, handguns must be licensed and concealed unless on private property.
Supporters of expanding open carry laws argue a holstered sidearm is a simple expression of the Second Amendment, and would act as a deterrent to crime.
"In my business, I allow my employees to open carry," said Michael Cargill, a licensed concealed handgun instructor and owner of Central Texas Gun Works. "That will prevent anyone from walking into my business and even thinking about doing anything illegal just by seeing those firearms."
Cargill says opponents shouldn’t fear open carry and points to the arguments against the concealed handgun law passed by the Texas Legislature nearly 20 years ago.
"The same argument back in 1995 when they said that with the concealed handguns licenses we're going to have riots in the street, you're going to have people pulling up at stop signs shooting people," said Cargill. "None of that happened. Open carry, it's the same argument."
Opponents argue handguns out in the open could escalate potentially violent situations.
"There's just ample opportunity for something to happen that maybe would not be intentional like a gun going off, a gun being taken from its owner, plus just frankly culturally," said Kris Hilsher, Austin ambassador for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "We don't want to go to the grocery and see folks with a handgun on their hip. It's frightening."
Hilsher says Texans have long been at ease around guns, and the organization is not necessarily opposed to laws allowing licensed handguns to be carried concealed. Yet when it comes to carrying firearms in the open, Hilsher says lawmakers should think twice.
"If you are in a rural part of Texas, it might be something that you would see, folks going to and from their hunting lease, carrying their gun," said Hilsher. "It is not something you'd expect to run into at Staples or Starbucks or the grocery store."
Meanwhile Cargill suggests supporters may do better by focusing less on testing law enforcement and more on talking to lawmakers.
"We don't want to turn people off, we want to do it in an educational way," said Cargill. "We want to open people's minds and let them understand that open carry is a great thing, but we don't want to be confrontational."
Whether it’s a hit or miss with voters remains to be seen.