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Texas Law Enforcement Group Wants Changes To Open Carry, But Will Lawmakers Listen?

The changes might actually do more to protect police officers than the Police Protection Act.

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DALLAS, TX - JULY 14: Dallas police officers arrive at the funeral for slain Dallas police Sgt. Michael Smith at The Watermark Church on July 14, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Dallas police Sgt. Michael Thomas was one of five Dallas police officers who were shot and killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter march in Dallas.
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After two shootings targeting police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, there’s been an uptick in the national conversation about how best to support law enforcement. Politicians and lawmakers such as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who used his platform during a town hall on race and policing to ask President Obama if he was sure law enforcement knew in their “heart” that he supported them, have been at the forefront of this renewed dialogue. Governor Greg Abbott has also showed support for law enforcement by announcing the Police Protection Act, a proposal that aims to increase penalties for crimes against law enforcement and would reclassify an attack on an officer as a hate crime.

Abbott hopes that the act will be passed in the 2017 Legislative session. For their part in the upcoming session, law enforcement groups plan to bring up an issue that they somewhat disagree with Abbott on: open carry. According to the Texas Tribune, some groups intend to request revisions to open carry. Along with other issues such as restoring funds and improving employee benefits, Charley Wilkison, the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, wants to recommend changes to the law to make it easier for law enforcement to handle open carry.

“I expect to stand in committee and say all our rights are abridged everyday,” Wilkison told the Tribune. “You still can’t even yell ‘fire’ in a theater. So my freedom of speech is abridged just like yours. There is a greater good called the community. We’ll try to make our stand there.”

Open carry has been a point of contention between Texas lawmakers and law enforcement since the 2015 legislative session. Republican lawmakers, buoyed by Abbott’s promise to sign any bill expanding gun rights that landed on his desk, pushed to pass the open carry and campus carry laws, even as law enforcement groups around the state opposed such measures. There were concerns that open carry would make situations such as active shooters more dangerous as law enforcement tried to figure out who was a threat and who wasn’t. During a Senate committee hearing on the bills in February 2015, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo referenced data that showed that 75 percent of Texas police chiefs surveyed said they were opposed to open carry. It was later in May that the concerns of police officers were taken into consideration, and lawmakers removed a portion of the open carry bill that would have prevented law enforcement from checking people for gun licenses if they were openly carrying a gun.

The night of the Dallas shooting, one of the concerns of law enforcement was realized as they tried to figure out if any of the people with visible guns during the protest were active shooters. During the confusion, the Dallas Police Department Twitter account even shared a picture of Mark Hughes, who was carrying a rifle (which was legal before the open carry law passed), and called him a suspect. Hughes was quickly proved innocent thanks to other protest attendees responding to the tweet, but according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Hughes was just one of twenty to thirty protestors with guns that law enforcement cleared as suspects.

“Someone is shooting at you from a perched position, and people are running with AR-15s and camo gear and gas masks and bulletproof vests, they are suspects, until we eliminate that,” Brown said in CNN’s “State of the Union” the Sunday after the shooting.

Although law enforcement officers have expressed appreciation for Abbott’s Police Protection Act, the law is at best redundant, and at worst it could actually complicate prosecuting crimes against police officers. Crimes against law enforcement already come with higher penalties, and hate crime classifications are intended to protect people based on unchangeable characteristics such as race and sexual orientation, not occupations. According to Cheryl Drazin, the Southwest Civil Rights Counsel at the Anti-Defamation League, seeking hate crime classification would make cases harder for prosecutors.

“They’d have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the perpetrator attacked the officer, and that that act was committed because the person was a police officer,” Drazin told KERA News. “That additional burden, that specific intent, would make prosecutions more difficult, and not easier.”

So though the Police Protection Act seems to have good intentions, it’s helpfulness is doubtful. What might actually be helpful in protecting police officers is examining their concerns about a law they stated would make their jobs more dangerous. This time around, will politicians and lawmakers like Patrick and Abbott—who are strong supporters of open carry and expanding gun rights—continue to support law enforcement who want to make changes to open carry? The upcoming legislative session might be an opportunity to see how much support they’re willing to give.

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  • While it’s true that “lawmakers removed a portion of the open carry bill that would have prevented law enforcement from checking people for gun licenses if they were openly carrying a gun,” the Fourth Amendment precludes the police from seizing people just to check for licenses unless the police have reasonable individualized suspicion of crime afoot. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979) (police may not stop motorists without any reasonable suspicion to suspect crime or illegal activity, to check their driver’s license and auto registration.).

    • BillMiller667

      Advocates of gun control keep claiming that they want to regulate firearms like automobiles, but then they conveniently ignore Delaware v. Prouse.

  • Bill Anderson

    Fornicate the Constabulary!

    If police want a war, they can keep increasing their police state.
    If police want peace, they will come out against an ever increasing police state.

    In other words: If you go looking for a fight, you’ll most likely find it.

    Police should be apolitical, Police Unions could start a campaign today to shrink government, legalize drugs, restrict their activities, and make peace with the populace. If they did that, they would be shrinking their pensions.

    Expect to see police and the communities they “protect and serve” to escalate their attacks and retribution attacks. This isn’t rocket science people, this is just simple economics.

    • space2k

      Says “Police should be apolitical”, then lists a bunch of political things he thinks they should do.

      • Bill Anderson

        Read Much?
        Police in uniform shouldn’t be political.
        Police Union should come out as hard as they can in a Political Campaign to support Libertarians or Anarchists and denounce Republicans and Democrats.

        • roninmd

          space2k doesn’t English much.

  • Doc

    As this statement is technically accurate, “police may not stop motorists without any reasonable suspicion to suspect crime or illegal activity, to check their driver’s license and auto registration”, many traffic officers will make a stop for a “defective taillight”, which is very hard to prove wrong. There could be a short, contact could have been loose, whatever. Your word against theirs. Law enforcement create loopholes for just about anything that will generate income, traffic fines, etc.

    Firearms are not designed to be fun: They are designed to kill. Firearms are a weapon. The single purpose of a firearm, from design to sale is to make the most lethal weapon available with the least amount of problem for the user.
    Whether it be to kill an animal or a human, the firearm is created to, with surgically precision, rip into flesh and permanently dispose of life. There is no stun setting on firearms: They are set to kill. Open carry is intended as a precursor of this fire power.
    Open carry is becoming a major issue in the United States. There are only three reasons to openly carry a firearm, especially a firearm that restricts personal mobility:
    1. Paranoia.
    2. Intimidation.
    3. Showing Off.
    All three reasons show mental instability on the part of the individual intent and insistent on open carry. The proper and prudent move for the general public is to separate itself – immediately – from anyone demonstrating open carry. Open carry is not sane.
    Whether from paranoia, intimidation or showing off, the open carry individual wants to escalate open carry to deadly force. The bottom line mentality of the open carry individual is that s/he is a force to be reckoned with, to the inclusion of deadly consequences. Open carry begs for confrontation.

    • John Locke

      You forgot personal protection. Warren v DC and Gonzalez v Castle Rock has proven police have no obligation to protect you.

    • rickconner

      So, which of the 3 are the police using to justify their open carry? Are you trying to tell us that the police are mentally defective? Are the police paranoid? Are they trying to intimidate the populace? Or are they just showing off?
      There have been zero problems with the open carry law thus far and I don’t expect there to be many if any in the future.
      You seem to fit the description of paranoid better than either the police or the people open carrying.

      • BillMiller667

        Five states and the District of Corruption do not allow open carry of handguns, and that’s where 1 out of 3 homicides are committed in America. In Vermont, the law allows people as young as 16 openly to carry a handgun without a license. So Vermont must be a pretty dangerous place, right? It’s homicide rate is 1.6 per 100,000 population, which is on par with the homicide rate in Canada and Finland.

    • Rick Norman

      ….just because you don’t like open carry, has no bearing on anyone else….you get one voice, so do I….

  • brian.switzer

    Just because we can open carry doesn’t mean everyone with an LTC actually carries openly..pay attention next time you are out and about..count how many openly carried handguns you actually see…this is a big fuss over something that has no reported problems since Jan 1.

    • R Speaking

      Most CHL holders I know WON’T carry openly. Carrying openly makes you the first target and a known adversary, whereas staying concealed creates doubt.

      • Bad Blood

        Big second amendment guy here, and I’m glad I have the right to open carry, but I would never do so in public intentionally. I am glad, however, that should my firearm become visible by accident that I’m not committing a crime now. It’s hot in Texas during the summer and the clothing worn sometimes doesn’t lend itself to being the best for concealing a firearm.

  • George Minga

    The real issue here is how we treat each other and how we perceive our law enforcement. Everyone wants to point out the bad apples nobody acknowledges the day in day out service that the other 99% of good officers, disarming citizens isn’t going to change that. Art Acevedo has said if he could he would disarm everyone, he said concealed carry was going to have blood in the streets, he said open carry was going to have blood in the streets he is wrong just like anybody else with his opinion.

  • Walker62

    The OC standards warrant revision. When you have an event with significant Law enforcement present (protests, conventions) or in places of government business with security check points, I see no reason for open carry. Frankly, I think such a regulation warranted voter approval rather than just the legislature approving the action.
    I have several family members, friends and acquaintances with CHL and none have any plans to effect OC. Some feel its better you don’t know they are packing, i.e. element of surprise.

  • Victor Rivera

    AR-15s and other rifles have nothing to do with open carry! Open carry is for handguns only so I have no idea why this article mentions Mark Hughes. Even if we didn’t have open carry, Mark Hughes would still be allowed to walk in a march/protest with a rifle at his side. It’s called the Second Amendment and if police cannot understand that, they need to look for another job. I’m a former cop, former military, and currently an attorney who was a judge for 5 years. Articles like this one make me sick. Texas is the 45th state to allow open carry. Why is it that police here in Texas cannot figure out how to handle open carry like the other 44 states have within the Union?

  • Dzapper

    frequently misinterpret the ever popular argument of “You can’t yell
    “fire” in a crowded theater”, to imply that any and all restrictions on
    rights are acceptable, when in fact that is clearly not so. The restriction on yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is actually extremely narrow in scope, and highly specific to instances where you would actually cause harm to others. The ownership, possession, or carrying of firearms of any type do not even come close to this standard. The truth is
    that I can yell fire in a crowded theater, when there is in fact a fire. Additionally, I can use the word
    “fire” in a conversation in a theater, I can use it outside of a
    theater, I can use it in my home, I can use it in my car, I can use it
    at work, I can use it in a internet comment, I can yell it out in the
    shower, but I cannot yell it out in a crowded theater, except in certain
    circumstances. The reason for this is that we do not take away rights
    from people who have done nothing wrong in this country, supposedly.
    This is what we call the “presumption of innocence” and it dictates the
    way we deal with criminals, and noncriminals in this country, or at
    least it used to. We should have the same kinds of restrictions on the
    Second Amendment. Just as with the First, you should have the full and
    complete enjoyment of your rights without any reservations or
    restrictions until you do something that proves your motives are against
    the public interest. Like murder, for example. Because “innocent until
    proven guilty” isn’t just a phrase — it’s supposed to actually mean
    something in this country.

  • sapper740

    Someone please post a link detailing when and where an open carried handgun definitively made the owner a “target”. If you can’t, then please stop spreading Old Wives Tales, shut up , and go join the Soccer moms.

  • Roland Ramirez

    To answer the question from the title of the article, no they won’t.

  • Madrigalian

    Interesting that both this article and the one it links to reference “revisions” to the open carry law. But neither actually specify what those “revisions” to the law might be. Something tells me that the term revision would be more accurately described as repeal.

    The only revision I want to see is called “Constitutional Carry” also known as “Vermont Carry”. The Constitution and Second Amendment is all the license anyone should require.