Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oh, That Crazy Texas Legislature...

But apparently they are.

Seems that the Texas State Legislature has decided to pass a few gun un-control bills.  First, it was allowing workers to bring their guns to their place of employment if they left them locked in their cars even if the company had a no firearm rule. Now, just what good they think a locked up gun is going to do is questionable at best. Still, something that seems fairly harmless, on the surface.

Next came a measure to let individuals with a permit to carry concealed off the hook if they carried a weapon into bar or restaurant that did not display the proper signage prohibiting guns and another that in an amendment to a sobriety checkpoint bill that "was unanimously approved to exempt stopped motorists from having to tell police they have a state handgun license — as an existing law requires".  I don't really see the purpose here. What possible rationale is there for this change?

Now a House committee is looking at legislation to allow those with a concealed carry permit to take their guns on to Texas college campus, something that is currently not allowed.  At least half of the House has signed on as co-sponsor for this bill.

And just what is about the Texas requirements that make it appropriate to extend the boundaries of where these concealed handguns can be carried?  Well, the law states the following (in the short form):

You are eligible if you
  1. Have not been convicted of a felony.
  2. Not charged with the commission of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or an offense under Section 42.01, Penal Code, or of a felony under an information or indictment.
  3. Not a fugitive from justice for a felony or a Class A or Class B misdemeanor.
  4. Not a chemically dependent person.
  5. Not incapable of exercising sound judgment with respect to the proper use and storage of a handgun.
  6. Have not in the five years preceding the date of application been convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or an offense under Section 42.01, Texas Penal Code.
  7. Fully qualified under applicable federal and state law to purchase a handgun.
  8. Have not been finally determined to be delinquent in making a child support payment administered or collected by the Texas Attorney General.
  9. Have not been finally determined to be delinquent in the payment of taxes or other money collected by the Texas Comptroller, Texas State Treasurer, or tax collector of any agency or political subdivision of this state.
  10. Have not been finally determined to be in default on a loan made under Chapter 57 of the Texas Education Code.
  11. Not currently restricted under a court protective order or subject to a restraining order affecting the spousal relationship, not including a restraining order solely affecting property.
  12. The 10 years preceding the date of this application, have not been adjudicated as having engaged in delinquent conduct violating a penal law of the grade of felony.
  13. Have obtained, or will obtain, a handgun proficiency certificate by completing a course of instruction taught by a certified Handgun Instructor.
  14. At least 21 years of age

Number five goes so far, in the law's 
full form, as to cover anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a mental disorder likely to cause substantial impairment in judgment, mood, perception, impulse control or intellectual ability and declare them ineligible. Of course, if they can get a psychiatrist to declare them in remission and unlikely to relapse they can get this waived.  

There's also a ten-hour course that all applicants are required to take that has them prove their skill with   a semi-automatic handgun or revolver. The class is roughly divided between basic gun safety and proficiency and classroom time that covers use of deadly force, the law, signage and restrictions and a test.  After this class and a background check that's intended to check for the above listed eligibility requirements that takes about 60 days, you'll get your license and be able to carry as many handguns as you can conceal on your person. Literally. As many as will fit.  The law makes no mention of a limiting number.

Okay, now to me, this is a bit like telling a person that's just taken a Basic First Aid course they're ready to be a paramedic. Here's the uniform and the bag. Go forth.  Knowing how to fire a gun and being lectured about deadly force is so not equivalent to being actually taught to fire a weapon with the intent to take down a person and stop them from doing further harm.  It's just not.  It's the perfectly human hesitation that will get you killed unless you are trained to overcome it as police officers and military personnel are trained.

What are they thinking?  Some believe that having a concealed weapon carried by a certified permit holder can stop mass shootings before they earn the moniker "mass".   This argument has been around in Texas ever since George Hennard drove his pick-up truck into Luby's in Killeen and killed 23 people and injured another 20 before killing himself in 1991. This event led directly to the Texas Concealed Handgun Law championed by a survivor of the massacre.  Since then, Texas has moved ever forward in its attempts to arm its citizenry.  Now, they want to add college campuses to list of places that those with a permit to carry concealed can legally bring a weapon.

Texas has a long standing tradition regarding gun rights and protections for average citizens who use them in defense of self, family or property.  Now we're moving towards the idea that if you've passed the certification requirements and background check you must be an okay upstanding citizen and you can carry that pistol wherever the hell you want.  Cause, you never know when some crazy person might whip out a shotgun or a Glock and start killing everyone in sight.

Let me ask you a question? How many people that have committed these mass shootings have had legal permits to own their weapons?  Cho, the shooter at Virginia Tech did. I'm sure others have as well. What made them suitable candidates for gun ownership? Others, like Harris and Klebold of the Columbine Shootings, acquired their guns illegally or through straw deals where the original purchaser was legitimate but then sold the weapon illegally.  The point is, getting the weapon isn't the problem.  Doing it legally, as with Cho, or illegally, as with the Colombine shooters, doesn't stop those determined from acquiring a weapon. But how does having their potential victims armed help? Would it really? 

And that's the real question that should be asked here.  Not is it okay to own a handgun. Yes. Definitely.  It's a Second Amendment Right.  No argument from me.  Having a handgun in your home to protect your family? Okay. Caution needs to be applied, of course, but not it's unreasonable.  Carrying a handgun in your car.  Meh. I can see why you might want to but this places you within the public realm, as in you're off your private property and in the street.  Things are becoming more grey.  Carrying concealed on your person.  Now we're getting into what I consider a dangerous area.  Carrying concealed gives a person a sense of security that may not be appropriate and that can lead to risky behavior.  More importantly, you have to be damn sure that the person you're about to shoot is really and truly an imminent danger to yourself or others.  And that takes a moment of hesitation. Then you have make the decision to shoot.  Taken together, this is a recipe for disaster.  Don't take the time to determine what you think is a gun is really a gun and you could potentially kill an unarmed person.  Take too long to decide to shoot and you could end up dead without ever getting off a shot. And knowing how to shoot a target is simply not the same thing as shooting another human being.  It just isn't.  It's why military and police training is slightly longer than 10 hours.  And it's why this law was poorly conceived at its outset and is now compounding these mistakes with these new de-regulations. 

All of this is quietly being lost in the general uproar over the economy and what's going to happen next. Personally, I plan on contacting my state representative and telling her my concerns.    

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