The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

License to Kill: New “Open Carry” laws implemented in Texas

in Beyond Our Walls/News/Opinion/Our Voices by

The organization “Open Carry Texas” reportedly held demonstrations by filming themselves walking into a Chili’s and a Sonic with semi-automatic weapons strapped to their backs, in an effort to see how management would respond. This was followed with criticism from the NRA, and these tactics were outlawed in six national restaurant chains.

On June 13, 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that allows any adult with a recognized gun license (roughly 826,000 adults) to carry an unconcealed gun in a holster into any establishment without an approved sign prohibiting it. This includes state funded psychiatric hospitals. Rifles and other “long guns” remain legal to carry in public. Although the law was passed in June, it did not go into effect until January 1, so law enforcement could prepare for the change.

Supporters of this law feel that the sight of guns in public “discourages criminals” and allows people to “protect themselves more fully.” However, less than 40 percent of Texans support the law and more than 75 percent of police chiefs were against it. According to a February survey, the main causes of concern for these police chiefs was that this law could endanger law officers and make it difficult to identify criminals. Texas is already in the top 30 states for the most gun violence. Why should we feel the need to openly carry around a weapon designed only to kill?

Supporters of this law say that openly carrying guns will deter criminals, but in reality, the fact that people can legally buy guns without a background check creates a higher probability that they will become the criminals. There have been 4,314 gun-related incidents in the U.S. in 2016 alone. This is far too many, and we should be making gun laws stricter, not giving people more freedom with something so dangerous.

The “Campus Carry” law, which allows guns to be carried on public university campuses, albeit concealed, has caused just as much of an uproar. One professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Daniel Hamermesh, quit his job entirely, as he felt unsafe. In a letter to the university president, he wrote that his chances of being shot “had substantially increased.”

A great influx of people have moved to Texas over the past few years, making it more and more urban. Do we really need strangers carrying handheld guns in the open in a crowded city? This is an unnecessary risk. We no longer live on the frontier. This is ridiculous.

Our legislation should look towards saving lives by making gun laws stricter. Instead, we are only catering to a small part of the population that wants the ability to carry a lethal weapon whenever and wherever they please. Openly carrying guns will not protect people from criminals, it will simply create more criminals. This is not only unsettling, but downright scary.

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