Texas Efforts to Change Gun Laws Hurt by 'Open Carry' Protests

Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 07:20 AM

By Cathy Burke

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Texas has emerged as the hotbed of the national fight over "open-carry" laws, but a publicity offensive – some proponents tote their rifles into chains such as Target to make a point – are hurting the battle to change Texas’ restrictive handgun policies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We'd much rather carry a handgun," Terry Holcomb Sr., executive director of Texas Carry, an open-carry advocacy group, told the newspaper. "A long gun is not conducive to everyday personal defense, going to work, going out, going shopping."

Legislation in recent years proposing to allow people to carry handguns visibly has gone nowhere, the Journal reported, and some gun-rights advocates say rifle-toting open-carry protests don’t help.

State Rep. George Lavender, a Texarkana Republican, told the paper the rifle-carrying open carriers have "probably given our opponents ammunition."

Texas law doesn't ban publicly carrying long guns unless they’re displayed in a manner "calculated to alarm," or brought into a place that is legally allowed to ban them, the Journal noted.

For years, open-carry supporters have pushed to change state laws to allow the possession of legally purchased firearms visibly in public, saying it deters crime. Texas is one of just five states – including blue-states California, New York and Illinois – that doesn't let citizens openly display a legally registered handgun, the newspaper said.

The brash rifle protests at big stores, however, have spooked customers.

"Is that the person you want standing next to you at Target?" Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told the Dallas Morning News last month.

The moms group is one funded in part by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Journal reported.

After open-carry supporters flashed their rifles at a Dallas-area Chipotle last May 17, the company told customers to keep firearms outside, explaining their display "in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."

Advocacy groups promised May 23 to "not go into corporate businesses without prior permission, preferably not at all."

But Chipotle, Starbucks and four other restaurant chains responded to "mom-cotts" – by the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – and changed their policies, the Journal reported.

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