Happy 2016, everyone! The new year is upon us, bringing with it the promise of new things, the hope for a brighter tomorrow and, if you live in Texas, a better chance of getting your ass shot.
Why today? Because today is when the state’s “open-carry” law kicks in, making it legal for properly licensed gun owners to fulfill their life-long John Wayne fantasy and walk around in public with a handgun in plain sight.
When did Texas turn into the OK Corral? Well, last year the Texas Legislature approved and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law HB 190, which made it legal for any yahoo with a concealed handgun license to openly carry a pistola in a belt holster (picture Yosemite Sam) or shoulder holster (think Dwight Schrute).
Not being a gun guy, I don’t understand why open carry is preferable to concealed carry. Maybe a gun on the hip is the new codpiece (“And this one can fire twice without a nap in between!”). Or maybe it’s a matter of convenience. I know that photographers have a saying: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Gun owners can now say, “The best handgun is the one you can get to in a hurry when some bastard tries tries to pass you while you’re texting in the passing lane.”
You might ask, why would anyone need to walk around in public with a gun strapped to their hip? The simple answer is that, unless you live in Beirut, no one does. I’m 61 years old and I have laughable decision-making skills. Despite that, I have never been in a situation that would have been made better by a loaded gun being close at hand. Au contraire.
Pro-gun folks always trot out the old “the cure for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” argument. That scenario didn’t play out so well in 1981 when über-loser David Hinckley managed to shoot Ronald Reagan and three other people, despite the fact the president was surrounded by a small army of good guys with more automatic weapons than an Afghan warlord.
So, a phalanx of highly-trained Secret Service agents can’t keep the president safe from a nut with a .22, but we’re supposed to believe that a soccer mom with a Starbucks Vente in one hand and a SIG Sauer in the other is going to make the world better by busting caps at a Walmart shoplifter? Don’t do me any favors.
Who thought open carry was a good idea? Well, for one, not police officers. Cops (with the possible exception of those in Chicago and Cleveland) are typically big fans of law and order, so you might think they’d be happy for any help they can get. But in a survey conducted by the Texas Police Chiefs Association, 75 percent of respondents said open carry was a bad idea. Open-carry fans may see themselves as Dirty Harry, but they give me more of a Barney Fife vibe.
I work for a Big State Agency and until recently employees were barred from carrying weapons to work, even if licensed. Outsiders could bring them into our building, but we couldn’t. However, now that HB 190 is in effect, even we can come to work strapped.
This same agency won’t let employees have space heaters in their cubes, citing safety concerns. Overnight, however, employees who can’t be trusted not to burn microwave popcorn are suddenly empowered to carry guns designed expressly to kill people. That’s what happens when politics trump common sense.
The high sheriffs who do the heavy lifting where I work could have ruled that weapons have no place in an office setting. But they didn’t. Their attitude is basically, “Hey – the Lege decided to pander to their mouth-breathing base by approving open carry; who are we to be the voice of reason?”
I don’t think guns in the workplace are a good idea but, on the other hand, this could make my annual performance evaluation a lot more interesting.