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Pro: Openly carrying firearms provides a sense of security

By Bianca Montes
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.

The sense of security that a concealed handgun provides is priceless, Angel Swain said, but it doesn't create the same comfort that a gun holstered at her side does.

That gun is a deterrent.

Swain, 27, of Victoria, said her sister-in-law was approached by a man in a parking lot a couple months ago. She had a permit to carry a concealed gun, but that weapon was in her purse, and the man did not see it.

"My thinking is, if I've got a gun on my hip holstered, I am less likely for them to follow me out of the store and try to do something," Swain said.

She doesn't have that right.

Texas is one of six states that doesn't allow open carry. All other states allow it, with 14 requiring a permit.

Two Texas representatives, George Lavender, R-Texarkana, and Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, filed HB 700 in early 2013, which would have allowed open carry of handguns by concealed handgun license holders had it become law. The bill wanted to remove the requirement that a handgun be concealed from several code sections.

It did not not change licensing or background check requirements. After being considered in a committee hearing March 14, 2013, the bill was left pending and died.

Open Carry Texas, a group that formed in July 2013, wants to change open carry laws.

"The fact is the Legislature didn't think this was an issue people cared about," group president CJ Grisham, of Belton, said. "We didn't have people go out there and demand we have less restrictive law."

Open Carry Texas has 16,000 members with chapters all over the state, including Victoria. Its purpose is to educate about the right to open carry, condition people to feel safe around law-abiding people who open carry and encourage elected officials to pass less restrictive legislation.

"We're trying to get it out that it's actually our constitutional right to do this," Victoria board member Justin Reiley, 39, of Schroeder, said. "That right was taken from us back in the 1800s, and Texas has fallen behind on gun rights compared to the majority of every state."

To raise awareness, Reiley riled about eight to 10 people to join him for a walk. The group, rifles in tow, took a stroll down North Navarro Street - garnering honks of support and a few voices of opposition.

The group grew to about 15 for its April walk.

"We want to teach people to not be afraid of guns," Swain said. Swain handles public relations for the Victoria chapter of Open Carry Texas.

A Pew Research Study conducted in March 2013 showed despite a dramatic drop in violent gun crimes in the past two decades, 56 percent of Americans believe gun crime is worse today than it was 20 years ago.

The rate of nonfatal violent gun crime victimization went down 75 percent in the past 20 years, according to numbers obtained from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The gun homicide rate also dropped 49 percent.

"A lot of it has to do with the media attention," Reiley said. "People have been pushed for years to believe they don't like guns - that they're dangerous.

"But the truth is open carry is a deterrent. If someone walks in someplace to commit a crime and saw a bunch of people with guns out, they'd turn around and walk away. Criminals aren't going to take the risk with people they can visually see with guns."

Con: Open carry promotes sense of fear



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