Open Carry of Handguns in Texas — A Historical Perspective

Open Carry in Texas
Photo: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price

In 1871, the Texas legislature banned carrying guns outside the home–a move largely directed at controlling blacks during the Reconstruction era. That ban was altered in 1995, when Texas adopted the concealed carry of handguns, yet a prohibition against open carry handguns in public remained on the books.

It took the Republican-controlled 2015 Texas legislature and Governor Greg Abbott (R) to abolish that final prohibition, thereby making it legal for licensed gun owners to carry handguns openly in public in the Lone Star State–and re-establishing liberty.

A dirty little secret is that the roots of most anti-carry laws–whether open or concealed–are racial in their motivations. For example, Breitbart News previously reported that the laws regulating the carrying of firearms in Florida were rooted in an attempt to control if and/or when blacks could be armed. Similar to Texas, the regulation in Florida began in the late 19th century.

The Idaho Statesman reported:

Florida’s law regulating the carrying of guns passed in the 1890s. …The Florida Supreme Court decision Watson v. Stone (1941), [shows it] was passed to disarm blacks and gives whites a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population.

In the majority opinion for Stone, Justice Rivers H. Buford wrote:

The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in the turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security.

Similar stories could be told for other states in the South, and that is because Confederate states–such as Texas and Florida–emerged from the Civil War (1861-1865) looking for a way to prevent Reconstruction policies and northern tendencies from becoming normal. Politically speaking, the Civil War was a war between the Republican North and the Democrat South. And just as the Ku Klux Klan, “Black Codes,” and other regulations were employed post-Civil War to keep free blacks from quickly proliferating and changing southern society, so, too, gun control was a tool used to give whites the upper hand–or to preserve that upper hand as long as it could be preserved.

The Houston Chronicle reports that attorney and Texas gun policy expert Stephen Halbrook examined Texas’ ban on handguns in public and said it provided a “way [Democrat officer holders] could arrest black people.” Halbrook added, “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.”

But gun control did not have to be about blacks only, and California proved this by passing regulations on carrying guns in public in 1923. Their desire was to “disarm Chinese and [Hispanic]” immigrants.

Florida started the trend for southern states to reverse or correct these regulations by adopting “shall issue” permits for a resident 21 or older. The term “shall issue” indicates an end to the arbitrary issuance of concealed permits, requiring, instead, that law enforcement shall issue permits to any applicant 21 or older who:

Does not suffer from a physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a weapon or firearm; has not been convicted of a felony; has not been convicted of a drug charge in the preceding three years; has not been confined for alcohol problems in the preceding three years; has completed any of a number of firearms safety classes; and has not been committed to a mental hospital in the preceding five years.

Clayton Cramer reports this was followed by a 1993 revision allowing American citizens who are not Florida residents to obtain a permit that can be used when visiting Florida.

Texas followed Florida’s lead and adopted a “shall issue” concealed carry permitting system in 1995. Then, in 2015, Texas took the next logical step and reversed–or corrected–the regulations preventing people from carrying handguns openly if they so choose and if they obtain a “License to Carry.” The law allowing the open carry of handguns took effect on January 1, 2016.

It is interesting to note that whereas Texas followed Florida in adopting a “shall issue” concealed carry regulation, Florida now lags behind Texas on open carry. A measure to allow the open carry of handguns in Florida has been introduced and will be heard when the Florida legislature convenes in January. But for now, it is Texas that has reversed the laws that served as machinations for racial tendencies so many years ago. Florida has one change left to make.

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly


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