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Con: Open carry promotes sense of fear

May 4, 2014 at 12:04 a.m.

Supporters of the Victoria chapter of Open Carry Texas march down North Navarro Street during a demonstration to publicize and promote the right of Texas residents to openly carry rifles and certain relic firearms in public.

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Concealed carry holder kills 6 in Grand Prairie

In July 2011, Tan Do, 35, opened fire at his son's 11th birthday at the Forum Roller World party and killed the boy's mother and four members of her family. Since May 2007, more than 450 people have been killed by private citizens, like Do, who legally carried concealed handguns, according to data provided by the Violence Policy Center.

Liana Villarreal said the idea of people in town openly carrying guns instills a sense of fear in her.

She believes if guns become common - a statement in everyone's holster - violence would ensue.

"The streets can be scary," Villarreal, 25, of Victoria, said. "Just last month, a friend of my brother-in-law was jumped by a group of thugs as he walked to the store. I don't want these kids having more of an easy access to weapons.

"It's bad as it is. Imagine if we had more guns?"

Following a House bill being killed in committee that would have made open carry legal in Texas, a group of gun advocates began rallying across the state to raise awareness about their rights - or lack of them - and get Texans used to feeling safe around guns.

Bryan Porras, 26, of Victoria, said just because you can open carry doesn't mean you should. He said while open carry may feel like a crime deterrent to some, for others, it is a source of discomfort.

"I look at the populous as a whole and not just at an individual's perception," he said. "While it could make one person feel safe, it could make another feel unsafe."

Victoria County recently adopted its own chapter of Open Carry Texas. Its members began walking down North Navarro Street, rifles in tow, to raise awareness for an issue they believe to be a constitutional right - the ability to bear arms in public, unmasked.

Kellye Burke, who leads the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said she grew up in Goliad, and while she understands hunters roaming the country with a loaded rifle, she finds it completely unnecessary walking down Navarro Street.

"Just because it's legal does not mean it is responsible," she said.

Open carry law in Texas allows pre-1899 black powder antique guns and rifles to be unconcealed, but handguns are prohibited. Those openly carrying guns allowed under that law are not required to have a background check, training or permit.

Burke called the movement an "unfettered, unrestricted ability to open carry any gun in public."

While many advocates argue that open carry provides them with a sense of safety because having a gun is a deterrent against crime, Cris Gonzalez, 68, Victoria County Democratic Party chairman, said he doesn't understand the reasoning.

"I was in the Vietnam War, and that was the last time I found the necessity to carry a handgun on my person," he said. "In combat, you have to protect yourself, concealed or otherwise. I don't believe in carrying otherwise."

Gonzalez said there's not a need for people to protect themselves by carrying a weapon, and the second amendment was written to protect men and women who did not have protection otherwise.

"We have more security than anyone else in the world," he said. "We have the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Texas Rangers, police officers, constables and sheriffs."

Gonzalez said people tend to lose their tempers, and he fears with more guns on the streets, more people will use them.

"Look what has been going on all over the country," he said.

Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said while he's not necessarily convinced that open carry would pose a bigger problem for law enforcement, he does feel the potential exists for an increased number of shootings because of the additional number of weapons out on the streets.

"I am a firm believer, however, that carrying a firearm carries with it a great responsibility," he said. "Weapon safety and legal understanding of firearm use is essential."

Pro: Openly carrying firearms provides a sense of security

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