Pro-Gun Rights legislation has been sweeping the nation in 2015, with Kansas becoming the 6th Constitutional Carry (unlicensed open or concealed carry) state, Maine expected to join them shortly and Texas finally partially lifting a 140 year ban on the open carry of handguns. However, media coverage of the Texas open carry law, still awaiting Governor Abbott’s signature, has been woefully misleading and potentially costly to Texas gun owners who haven’t thoroughly familiarized themselves with the new law. For example the fact that ONLY state-issued Handgun License holders will be able to legally open carry.
Throughout the media coverage of the pending Texas law change, you see headlines such as;
- Texas poised to allow open carry of handguns, overturning Civil War-era ban – US NEW & World Report
- Open carry handguns will soon be legal in Texas – USA Today
- Texas Governor To Lift 140-Year-Old Open Carry Gun Ban – The Daily Caller
- “Open Carry” Bill Heads to Gov. Abbott – Texas Tribune
Granted, in each of the above examples the articles do explain that this open carry legislation only applies to those who have a state-issued license to carry, but that is not the impression given by the headlines. Recent polls and studies show that more and more Americans are getting their news via social media. Other research shows that the attention span of Americans has dropped to below that of a goldfish, which many blame on social media and the 24 hour news cycle. Far too many people base their knowledge of politics, laws and many other issues on headlines, sound bites and social media memes without having the time or taking the time to delve further into the details.
I spoke with Patrick James, CEO of CDH, Inc. and founder of the 2nd Amendment Advocacy Group – Cold Dead Hands, who expressed his concern for what he considered irresponsible reporting on the part of the majority of mass media regarding the Texas open carry issue. His group, which is based in Texas, has a large social media presence and is well aware of the misinformation that abounds surrounding how “news” is interpreted via social media.
“I can see the potential for otherwise well-meaning, law-abiding Texas gun owners to misunderstand the limitations of the new open carry law in Texas-based on how the media is reporting it. There is definitely a potential for people to end up on the wrong side of the law by open carrying without the required license.” Patrick James told NoozSaurus.
The charge for such a violation would be a Class A Misdemeanor and is punishable with a fine of up to $4,000 and/or a jail term of up to one year, plus an additional 90 days and $4000 for those with a prior Class A Misdemeanor, under Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 46.02.
I contacted Terry Holcomb Sr. of Texas Carry, one of the leading grassroots proponents of HB910 which is set to become the new open carry law, to verify the penalties under the new law. According to Mr. Holcomb and his group, a conviction for “unlawful carrying of a handgun” would not preclude someone from future ownership or possession. Under federal regulations, those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for over one year are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm, except for state misdemeanors punishable by jail time of two years or less. Mr. Holcomb also expressed the need for better educating in regards to the new proposed law, which is exactly what his group is trying to do. Regardless, a violation would be costly for any Texas gun owner who open carries without a license and media coverage of the impending law change would appear to be fueling that potential through incomplete or misleading reporting.
For the record, Yes I recognize the irony of writing an article addressing the problems of people not reading past the headlines.