As most of you can guess, the full text of Mike’s comments was not quoted in the article. Mike was simply trying to differentiate between SCCC and OpenCarry.org, and I’m sure he now understands as well as anyone that it was probably a mistake to say anything to a reporter that the reporter could selectively use to shape the story in a manner that reflects negatively on SCCC.
But, at the same time, Mike is right that OpenCarry.org is using very poor judgment in the way they promote their open carry legislation in Texas. And it doesn't help that they accuse everyone who points this out of being pawns of the NRA/TSRA, both of whom OpenCarry.org claims are just jealous that open carry wasn't their idea.
Rather than working to educate legislators, as SCCC does, OpenCarry.org is attempting to use their petition's 50,000+ signatures (which, incidentally, equate to less than 1% of Texas gun owners, only about 1/6 the number of Texas CHL holders, and about 0.2% of all Texas voters) to bully legislators into supporting open carry. They're telling Texas Legislators that they'll vote them out of office if they don't back this legislation. Texas Legislators, from both sides of the aisle, who've vehemently supported gun rights for decades are now being told by this Johnny-come-lately organization that they're going to lose their seats if they don't throw their support behind an issue than none of them had even heard about until about four months ago. Unlike the issue of concealed carry on Texas college campuses, there have been no legislative studies into the issue of open carry in Texas, and there have been no reports issued by any of the major gun rights organizations. Essentially, these ardent gun rights supporters in the Texas Legislature are being told to either take a blind leap of faith or start packing their desks.
OpenCarry.org is also attempting to use its bully tactics on the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA) and the NRA, the two organizations that have done more for Texas gun rights than any other group. Ignoring the fact that the TSRA and NRA plan their Texas legislative agendas two years in advance and make a point not to get involved in issues they haven’t thoroughly researched, OpenCarry.org is asking its members to withhold support from the TSRA and NRA unless both organizations agree to include open carry as a last-minute addition to their already full legislative agendas.
Also, OpenCarry.org refuses to acknowledge and/or make accommodations for the potential impact of their legislation on both existing gun laws and on other pending gun rights legislation. The way their proposed legislation is written, it opens up all of Texas’s current safe guards for gun owners and concealed handgun license holders to potential amendment. Because the scope of their proposed legislation is so broad (much broader than it has to be), anti-gun legislators will have the opportunity to try to tack on amendments that will adversely affect right-to-carry in Texas.
OpenCarry.org pays no heed to the concerns of many gun rights advocates who believe that the proposed open carry legislation may adversely affect the rights of concealed handgun license holders in Texas. Texans are not used to seeing citizens openly carrying handguns. Contrary to what movies and TV shows might have you believe, the sight of a cowboy toting a six-shooter down Main Street hasn’t been a common sight in Texas since the end of the Civil War. On the other hand, nobody in Texas gives much thought to concealed carry. As long as the guns stay out of sight and out of mind, nobody is bothered by them, and most business owners see no reason to post signs prohibiting concealed carry on their property. However, if--following a lengthy, well-publicized legislative battle over open carry--shop owners start noticing people walking into their shops toting openly carried handguns, and--more significantly--if shop owners start getting complaints from customers who aren’t comfortable shopping around people toting openly carried handguns, we’re likely to see a lot more Texas businesses posted as “gun free” zones. Contrary to what the OpenCarry.org people may think their 50,000+ signatures proves, I feel pretty confident in saying that most Texas right-to-carry supporters are more interested in WHERE they can carry than in HOW they can carry.
The OpenCarry.org supporters who suggest simply boycotting any establishment that prohibits right-to-carry have clearly not spent enough time in states where more than 1% of businesses are posted “gun free.” Otherwise, they might realize how frustrating life can be for right-to-carry advocates when the only places they can carry are city streets, state and municipal buildings, and public parks.
When you consider that most business owners are likely a lot more concerned with the 23,275,000 Texans who haven’t signed the OpenCarry.org petition than with the 50,000 who have (and FYI, I’m pretty sure that a lot of those signatures aren’t actually from Texans), a boycott is likely to have little if any effect on the actions of business owners. And anyone who thinks that the Texas Legislature will pass an open carry bill without amending section 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code to ensure that private property owners can prohibit open carry on their property clearly doesn’t know much about Texas politics.
Also, OpenCarry.org refuses to make any concession or accommodation for the way their proposed legislation may affect proposed concealed carry on campus legislation. As long as they’re pushing for statewide open carry, without exception, it’s hard for us to argue that guns on campus won’t be a distraction because the guns will be “out of sight and out of mind.” And as long as OpenCarry.org is pushing for unlicensed open carry, without exception, it’s hard for us to assuage the concerns of skeptics by arguing that only trained, licensed adults, age twenty-one and above, will be allowed to carry guns on campus. We’ve asked the leaders of OpenCarry.org to issue a statement indicating that they are not seeking to legalize open carry on college campuses; however, they refuse to make any concessions.
Their insistence on viewing “compromise” as a dirty word essentially leaves us in the unwelcome position of attempting to construct a bill that no only permits concealed carry on campus but also prohibits open carry on campus. It’s the only way we can prevent their bill from sabotaging ours.
Finally, there is the fact that the media keeps attempting to lump the concealed carry on campus movement and the open carry movement into the same category. Given the powerful enemies OpenCarry.org is making, through their ill-advised strong-arm tactics, and the radical public image OpenCarry.org is creating, through their refusal to compromise, SCCC’s Texas leaders are now forced waste valuable time disassociating SCCC from OpenCarry.org. And if we aren’t careful in doing so, we run the risk of alienating supporters (as Mike demonstrated).
So, in summation, Mike wasn’t attempting to take a stance on open carry; he was attempting to say that SCCC doesn’t appreciate the way OpenCarry.org is pursuing the legalization of open carry in Texas and that, as long as they continue with their current tactics, we’re all going to be much better off if their bill dies in committee.
W. Scott Lewis
Advisor / Former National Media Coordinator
Students for Concealed Carry on CampusStudents for Concealed Carry on Campus - ConcealedCampus.com