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Unlicensed carry is still a bad idea

November 29, 2018

Texas lawmakers will have a lot of important issues to wrestle with in the next session of the Legislature that begins in January, and unlicensed carrying of guns is not one of them. This bad idea from previous sessions has resurfaced yet again, and it should be rejected one more time.

Proponents call the practice “constitutional carry” in the belief that Texans have a constitutional right to do pretty much what they want with a gun. Yet we would hope that even the strongest supporter of the Second Amendment would agree that certain people, like those convicted of serious crimes or suffering from severe mental illness, should not be allowed to possess guns, much less carry them in public.

Unlicensed carry ignores this reality. Anyone who could get a gun would basically be able to carry it in public, open or concealed, even if they knew virtually nothing about firearms. That’s just not a safe practice, even if some other states allow it.

Texas already has a good law for residents who want to carry a gun in public. It requires a background check to ensure that the applicant isn’t dangerous. It includes a brief period of classroom instruction to familiarize the applicant with basic laws and safe practices. Some people aren’t taught these things from parents or the military, and they might not realize that something is unsafe, like pointing a loaded gun at someone as a joke. Finally, the process requires a session on the shooting range to ensure that the applicant knows how to operate his or her firearm and can actually hit a target with reasonable accuracy.

This common-sense approach has been used by 1.2 million Texans so far with few problems. The process isn’t unduly burdensome or expensive, and it gives all Texans more assurance that someone carrying a gun in public is not a threat.

Bills like this are a test for new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Individual representatives have the right to file them, but Bonnen and committee chairs should not waste much energy on them. The same would apply to other time-wasters like a “bathroom bill,” which may be pushed in the Senate by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Again, there are too many compelling issues for this five-month session, such as finding more money for public education and our over-burdened highway network. Those concerns should receive the most focus, especially because lawmakers traditionally follow a leisurely schedule for the first couple of months and then end up trying to cram everything in before adjourning around Memorial Day. The fewer distractions, the better.

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