As millions of Texans are finding out this weekend and will discover through the year, open carry is not a big deal at all. By the start of 2017, open carry in Texas will join the rest of the union as simply an ordinary part of life. Licensed (with a concealed handgun license) open carry is now legal, except where otherwise prohibited by law.
2014 and 2015 saw frequent armed protests all across the state in favor of open carry. Counter-protestors marched, packed dildos in holsters, and harangued Starbucks, Panera Bread, and Target until corporate issued a half-hearted ‘request’ to leave the guns at home.
Open Carry Texas and the supporters of open carry who won this legislative change have dominated the media reports and national public perception of open carry. The sight of men carrying long-guns in to Chipotle restaurants gave us a new meme and polarized anti-gun groups, such as the Bloomberg-backed Moms Demand Action,
Texas is not as gun-friendly as their state tourism bureau and large belt-buckle wearing natives might have you believe. Here in Nevada, it is perfectly legal to carry a gun in a bar, while drinking, as long as you don’t get drunk. In Texas, firearms are banned from restaurants and bars that derive more than 51% of their revenue from alcohol sales.
The Houston Chronicle wrote this synopsis of Texas’ gun laws and its ban on open carry
“One of the noticeable goals was to ensure that black people did not shoot back to the guys in the white hoods," said Clayton Cramer, an author and historian who has written extensively on the selective enforcement of early gun laws. ‘A great many of the southern states relied on the fact that they could enforce these laws fairly arbitrarily.’
“That all changed in 1871, however, when the Legislature first outlawed the carrying of pistols outside of the home: ‘If any person in this state shall carry on or about his person, saddle, or in his saddle-bags, any pistol … he shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars,’ or around $2,000 today.
“The law, which did not apply to travelers or any ‘frontier county … liable to incursions by hostile Indians,’ was passed by a Republican Legislature eager to ensure the Reconstruction government could disarm remaining Confederate sympathizers and other citizens who disagreed with the newly acquired rights of freed slaves.
“Why then, when southern Democrats regained power, didn't they abolish the handgun ban from the books? Why did they instead continue to increase the fee - to $500 by 1918 - and even make it an imprisonable offense in 1889?
“‘This way they could arrest black people,’ said Stephen Halbrook, a lawyer and noted authority on the history of gun policy in Texas and across the nation. ‘Whoever was in power could selectively enforce those laws against those they didn't like. There has always been a lot of racism in the way these kinds of laws have been enforced.’
“In fact, Texas' first-ever gun control law - a bill passed in 1866 that banned bringing guns onto a plantation without the owner's consent - was aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of African-Americans by disarming black sharecroppers. The law was part and parcel of Texas' "black codes," legislation passed across the former Confederacy that sought to keep newly freed blacks subordinate to whites in the eyes of the law.”
Even though it’s not constitutional carry and still requires a license, Texas has open carry. Millions of Texans are going to come to the realization, if they haven’t already, that a visible pistol in a holster hurts no one and makes the world a little safer.