Little: Why constitutional carry is important for citizens
Texas HB 1927 – the new constitutional carry bill – was just signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 16. As its nickname suggests, this law recognizes the constitutional right to bear arms by removing the requirement that Texans obtain a license before they are allowed to carry a handgun. As Ellis County Judge, I believe that constitutional carry makes sense for Ellis County citizens and for Texas.
It may come as a surprise to some, but Texas used to have some of the strictest laws prohibiting individuals from carrying a handgun. Prior to 1995, Texans could only carry a handgun in their vehicles, and even then, they could generally do so only if they drove across county lines. After multiple notorious murders in the 1980’s & 90’s, however, the Texas Legislature recognized the need for law-abiding citizens to be able to protect themselves from criminals, who unsurprisingly did not obey laws prohibiting the carrying of deadly weapons.
In 1995, the Legislature initiated the modern handgun licensing program to allow Texans to apply for a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) through TX DPS. In 2016, this law was amended to make Texas a shall-issue License to Carry (LTC) state, which streamlined the process for Texans to obtain a handgun carry license, eliminated several “gun-free zones,” and legalized open carry. Continuing its trajectory of increasingly pro-Second Amendment legislation, Texas will now remove the licensing requirement altogether to carry a handgun; starting in September, any Texan over the age of 21 who is not a convicted felon will be free to carry, concealed or openly, in any location where firearms are not prohibited.
The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” If the U.S. Constitution recognizes a broader right to “bear” – i.e. carry – arms than does the state, then the state must defer to the broader interpretation of that right protected by the U.S. Constitution. Constitutional carry legislation is simply the state’s recognition of the right of all Americans to carry weapons.
Texans should not be required to obtain permission from their government simply to carry the means to their self-defense – the most basic right of all. The right to life is almost universally recognized in modern civilization, yet many policymakers don’t draw a connection between the right to life and the right to defend life. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out more than two centuries ago, “laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes,” yet polices inhibiting the carrying of weapons continue to give advantage to criminals and tyrants alike around the world today.
Whether we like it nor not, the world is filled with violent criminals – people who rob, rape, and murder without regard for the law or human decency – and they don’t always need guns to do it. Historically, tyrants who seek power have also found their way into positions of influence in government, where they have selectively granted or revoked weapons-related licenses in order to disarm and establish control over helpless populations. Government should therefore not serve as the gatekeeper to upstanding individuals who wish to be armed in defense of life and liberty, and with constitutional carry, Texans have decided that they will no longer place that kind of power in a state-run bureaucracy.
Constitutional carry makes sense both practically and constitutionally. Texans – who are familiar with firearms as a part of their cultural heritage – have decided that they do not want their government to decide whether they are allowed to carry a handgun on their person. Handgun licenses will no longer represent an unnecessary burden for Texans who wish to be armed, nor will there continue to exist any potential for handgun licenses to be abused as a political tool. Those who would violate the rights of others will learn that Texas is not the place to do so, as freely armed individuals will never be held at the behest of any individual or group that seeks to control them. Constitutional carry is good for Ellis County, and it is good for Texas.
Todd Little serves as Ellis County Judge.