5.8 Editor's Pick
July 19, 2021

Welcome back to the Wild West: Texas becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary State.

 

“Constitutional carry” is a bill that was recently signed into law by Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas. The new law goes into effect in September.

All 13 Democrats in our state Senate voted against the permitless carry bill, raising concerns that it would endanger Texans and put the state’s police officers at risk.

“Are you aware there are a large number of families on both sides of the aisle who are literally afraid of your legislation?” asked John Whitmire, a Democratic representative from Houston.

I am one of the people Senator Whitmire is talking about.

I have felt an increasing awareness and fear of gun violence lately. It started last March with the King Soopers shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Past mass shootings have never hit home in the way that one did.

All I could think about was how my best friend’s daughter used to work for that company, and then I thought of my little sister, who’s a manager at a grocery store in my hometown. So many other shootings have happened in places I would never go, but who doesn’t have to go to the grocery store?

It’s made me feel a real fear of being in public places.

Not surprisingly, the bill was backed by Republicans and allows Texans to carry a handgun (openly or concealed) without a permit or license. Under the current law, applicants must submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test. They also have to get a background check.

On September 1st, as long as they’re eligible to own a gun, a person only needs to be 21 years old to legally carry it in Texas.

Opponents, like some firearm instructors, have shared personal stories of how dangerous mishandling handguns can be when people don’t have training.

Mike Taylor, who teaches a course for license-to-carry in San Antonio, said, “Almost every class, I have someone loading the bullets in the magazine backwards. And I have people that they’ll turn to look to the side and point the gun at someone more often than I would care to express.”

People in the law enforcement community argue the law is a threat to public safety, and they fear for their fellow officers.

Douglas Griffith, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, fears for our community and said, “Now there will be a bunch of untrained individuals out there.”

Fredrick Frazier, a long-time lobbyist for law enforcement issues, testified against the bill and showed pictures of people who shot up ceilings instead of their targets. “There is no training. So those ceiling shooters are going to be the people carrying the gun, and where that bullet goes, who knows? Because there’s been zero training and zero background check, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

And Dallas Police Association President Michael Mata said, “We have no idea who the good guy is. I heard time and time again—the legislature says—well, the good guys are going to carry guns. Well, nobody wears a T-shirt that says, I’m the good guy.”

Proponents falsely believe that laws like this will make the community safer. I don’t buy it. I believe many more accidental shootings will occur, negating the perceived added protection from our no longer rare mass shootings.

I can see a scenario in my mind. It is easy to imagine because of our local investigative journalists. It’s a less common scenario, the likes of which happened in my own city a few months ago and could have had a different ending based on the logic of constitutional carry advocates.

It started on a concrete overpass—a ramp that I frequently drive across—tall as a three-story building, perched above an H-E-B supermarket and only three miles from my house.

A disabled Army veteran in mental duress pulled his black Volkswagen hatchback over to the shoulder of the ramp looming over the store. He got out of the car and began shooting his .45 caliber handgun down into the direction of the busy parking lot. Soon after, he and his creepy passenger, a skeleton mask fastened to the front seat next to him, drove to the airport and in the wrong direction on the road serving the passenger pick-up terminal.

After arriving at the terminal, the man stopped his car, got out, and began firing his gun indiscriminately toward the crowd, passing vehicles, and an airport police officer. The police officer returned fire, shooting him twice before the man fatally shot himself and later died at the hospital.

The police officer is credited with averting a potential mass shooting, and the recognition is well-deserved. With his quick thinking and training, he was able to disable the man, deescalating the situation from deadly to done. Thankfully, no one else was shot.

The police officer was alerted to a wrong-way driver by another officer, which gave him some warning to approach the shooter’s car before he even knew the driver was armed. The officer got to him quickly, but what if that hadn’t been possible?

If the shooter had more time, even a couple of minutes, he could have killed many people. A box full of ammunition was later found in his car.

It might have ended much differently now that constitutional carry will be legal, and this is the ending gun advocates might picture.

In this imaginary scenario, I can see the traffic lines of cars driven by the families and friends of airport passengers, patiently waiting to pick up their loved ones whose flights from all over the world recently landed. The air is thick with exhaust fumes as cars and trucks are idling, pulled over close by the sidewalk to load up people and luggage. Amber hazard lights are flashing while sweet hugs, kisses, and greetings are being shared, and doors and trunks are slamming shut.

Then the gunshots start.

Several drivers hear the shots and start running for their guns, reaching into gloveboxes and under car seats for protection. They begin shooting back, feeling threatened and brave enough to stop the shooter in self and community defense. Eventually, one or more of them hits their target, taking the active shooter down and keeping him from hurting more people.

This is the perfect scenario that our pro-gun culture likes to imagine and tout.

But we all know life is never perfect. I can imagine it ending differently and not saving many lives at all. In fact, I think chances are higher that it may take more innocent lives.

Let’s picture the same scenario after the first gunshots start and the friends and family of the airport passengers run for their gun-powered protection.

Maybe it’s been a while since these law-abiding citizens have fired their guns. Maybe some of them have never been fired. In their rush to protect themselves, they don’t notice the innocent bystanders in the path of their barrels. They don’t see the police officer who has finally arrived at the scene, ready and trained to take control of the situation.

In fear for their lives, these good Samaritans fire anyway, and their bullets don’t all hit their mark or the mark they were aiming for. Some of their bullets take down people they didn’t see, including the police officer, and the active shooter kills many more people before he’s finally disabled.

Some of their own bullets have even injured them or their loved ones because they never learned how to use their weapons. In their rush to fire back at the bad guy, their inexperience caused them to accidentally shoot themselves or their family members because they didn’t know how to properly handle their guns or didn’t have the safety devices on.

With gun violence becoming commonplace, our society has shifted into one of fear.

This creates a cycle of fighting fear with fear, buying weapons to protect from others’ weapons. It expands our already rampant gun culture but doesn’t make us safer. Statistics show that more guns lead to more gun violence, whether intentional or accidental.

Do we really trust fear to be strong enough to make people actually want to use their guns? To learn them and understand the responsibility that comes with owning and using a deadly weapon?

Will the fear be enough to carry past the initial stress relief people may feel from simply purchasing their firearm? Will it make them want to pay for proper training?

Firearms instructors in Texas are already noticing a dip in their course enrollments, and the law hasn’t even gone into effect.

With this new law eliminating the requirement for training, I simply don’t trust that most people will learn how to use their guns.

I don’t trust that they will always know if the safety mechanism is engaged or that they will have good aim. I don’t trust people to be responsible enough to lock them up properly, keeping them out of little ones’ hands or their mentally ill relatives.

I don’t trust that these gun owners aren’t mentally ill themselves—after all, depression is an epidemic in our country.

Having potentially armed saviors doesn’t make me feel any safer from active shooter events. More bullets mean a higher chance of getting shot in the crossfire.

Welcome back to the Wild West.

The sheriff in Harris County, which encompasses the city of Houston and is the most populous region of my state, warns that the new law will bring us back to those scary days. I echo the sentiment.

Our pro-gun culture makes me feel pressured to carry a gun for my protection. It reminds me of the old Wild West stories I’ve read where the characters always had to have a gun because everybody else did. The if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em mentality seems to be winning.

I went to a gun range once, and even though my husband and brother instructed me on how to stand, how to hold, and how to fire—I was a shaking ball of nerves. My clammy finger pulled the trigger, and the violent force emanated from the weapon flooded my body with adrenaline, and not the feel-good kind.

I was extremely uncomfortable and felt an overwhelming awareness of the impact I could potentially have on someone’s life—and my own—if I ever had to use the gun in my hands for its intended purpose.

The feeling made me want to cry, but I fought back the tears because I knew my family wouldn’t understand. The feeling has stayed with me ever since.

I’ve never liked guns and don’t think I ever will. Their power has always given me pause, even though I was raised with them in my life. My grandparents, parents and their siblings, my own siblings and cousins, my kids, and my husband own them. They like to hunt and shoot them for fun or show them off to each other and their friends.

But my beliefs are the minority in my family and in my soon-to-be Second Amendment sanctuary state.

Sadly, no matter how much gun violence increases, the majority’s solution will always be for more guns—and that needs to change.

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