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Campaign asks Texans to support open-carry law for handguns

November 30, 2008
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They’re setting their sights on Texas and coming out firing.

More than a month before the legislative session starts Jan. 13, gun-rights supporters are asking state lawmakers to pass an “open carry” law to let Texans stop covering up the guns they carry and wear them openly.

They are putting their message on billboards, on banners on cabs and in radio ads, asking others to sign on to the cause.

“We are targeting Texas,” said Mike Stollenwerk, co-founder of, a champion of the growing nationwide effort. “Texas is probably the most pro-gun state, but doesn’t have open-carry laws.

“As Texans realize how restrictive their rights are .?.?. there will be an awakening. Get ready for a showdown in Austin come January.”

Texas is somewhat of an open-carry battleground because it is one of only six states where handguns cannot, in some form, legally be worn in plain view. Texas residents may carry concealed handguns if they have a permit.

More than 28,000 people have signed an online petition asking Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature to make Texas an open-carry state.

“The only place we are spending money is Texas,” said Stollenwerk, who owns a home in Killeen. “Who knows if we’ll be successful? But at least it’s on the agenda.”

Some fear that pushing for open carry could bring more problems than solutions.

“What are they trying to do?” Richard Leal of Texans for Gun Safety Laws told the Star-Telegram earlier this year. “Go back to Texas gunslinger days?”

Upcoming battle

When lawmakers get back to work in January, it will have been 14 years since they passed a concealed-carry law.

Supporters say open carry is needed because under the concealed-carry law, gun owners can get in trouble for displaying their weapon even inadvertently, such as if a jacket covering it up blows back enough to show the gun.

“I want to be able to remove my suit jacket in the middle of a hot Texas August day without being labeled a criminal,” said Ralph Carroll, who lives in Van Zandt County and works in Dallas. “I can drive east or west one state over, remove my jacket in the heat of the day and still be a perfectly legal citizen. But that same act in Texas will brand me a criminal – for no reason other than I live in Texas.”

The other states that either don’t allow, or highly restrict, the open carrying of handguns in public are New York, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina, according to

More than a dozen states require a license for open carry, and 11 more allow it but don’t require licenses. Other states generally permit it, but with various restrictions.

Stollenwerk said a draft of a bill to allow open carry in Texas has been prepared.

While several Texas lawmakers have said they’ll support such a bill, none have stepped up to carry it.

“This is crunchtime before the session starts,” Stollenwerk said. “If no legislator steps forward, we will try to amend a bill midstream to get it in somewhere.”

Reaching out kicks off its Texas campaign Tuesday with the message “We don’t hide our colors, do we?” in Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

The ad encourages Texans to sign an online petition asking lawmakers to make Texas an open-carry state.

“We believe that law-abiding Texans should be free to proudly enforce their rights,” the radio ad states.

Ian McCarthy of Dallas posted the online petition in November 2007. He said he forgot about it until picked up the effort this summer, and thousands of Texans began signing.

“It was just me trying to reach out to people,” he said.

Carroll, a 48-year-old father of three, said many people’s fears about the concealed-carry law – shootouts at four-way stop signs, mayhem in the streets – haven’t come to pass. Similar fears about an open-carry law won’t either, he said.

“I just simply want to ensure I have self-protection if the need arises,” Carroll said. “The same reason I wear my seat belt, carry a spare tire and have a working fire extinguisher.”


Open carry –

Learn more about open carry or sign a petition urging Texas lawmakers to consider it at

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