The battle for gun rights in Texas has made national news over the last couple years and the Texas Legislature has passed an open carry and campus carry bill pending Gov. Abbott’s signature. Or did they? What do these Texas bills actually do for gun rights in Texas? Truth be told, not much. When you say Texas passed Open Carry and Campus Carry, most people envision people walking around openly armed all over the place or guns all over college campuses, but that is not even close to what these bills actually allow.
The Campus Carry bill, like the Open Carry bill, had to be finalized in conference committee to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the bill. Both Open and Campus Carry came out of conference committee watered down from their already diluted original state. For example, the Campus Carry bill only applies to PUBLIC Universities, giving PRIVATE Universities the ability to “opt out.” Even though public Universities don’t have the right to “opt out,” University presidents were given the authority to regulate where and how concealed handguns are permitted on campus by allowing them to designate “Gun Free Zones.” The much maligned Campus Carry bill only applies to students who have a Concealed Handgun License which requires that student to be at least 21 yrs old which drastically reduces the number of students who would even be affected by the bill. It is further limited by allowing private Universities to opt out and further limited again by allowing public Universities to still designate “Gun Free Zones.” So, what did this bill, that took an entire session of the legislature to produce, actually do? It gives a handful of students the ability to provide for their own self-protection in a handful of places on a handful of campuses. Seems like a lot of work for such a minimal result.
Of course Campus Carry was a very targeted piece of legislation, surely the Open Carry bill was much more comprehensive, right? Well, not so much. First, it is a Licensed Open carry bill, which automatically limits it to only those select few who can afford, or care to get, a state-issued license to exercise their right to carry. According to Census estimates there are approximately 20 million adults in Texas and according to the TX Dept. of Public Safety there are fewer than 1 million CHL holders in Texas. Even with out of state concealed carry licenses that Texas recognizes through reciprocity, this open carry bill only actually affects about one out of every 19 or 20 Texas adults. It also creates an addition class of prohibited places where one may not carry openly. Like the 30.06 signs that bar concealed carry in some places, the new 30.07 signage can be posted to bar open carry. Businesses can post one or the other or both to ban a type of carry or all carry in their establishment. Further more, by requiring a permit to open carry, law enforcement may now be inclined to detain anyone seen open carrying in order to verify that they have the proper license. It Doesn’t exactly sound like the gun slinging wild,wild west that gun control advocates warned about, does it?
All in all, the much praised and lamented passage of these bills is “a step in the right direction” for some and Armageddon for others, but still light years behind 90% of the nation in gun rights terms. Most of the nation already has some form of open carry, most are unlicensed open carry and some have “constitutional carry” which allows unlicensed carry for both open or concealed firearms without a permit. Gov. Gregg Abbott is expected to sign both bills without delay, however when they take effect, with their current limitations and disincentives, the vast majority of Texans will most likely not even notice a change.