By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)
FORT WORTH, Texas ––Open carry seems to be going off without a bang in Texas.
Law enforcers statewide had anticipated being overwhelmed by 911 calls from Texans reporting others openly carrying holstered handguns, but the phone lines haven’t been even close to slightly busy.
“We do not have anything interesting to report,” Cpl. Tracey Knight, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Police Department, said last week. “Two calls so far, no issues. We have no concerns and we have had no problems.”
That’s two more calls than have been logged by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department.
“I said before this became law that I thought it was going to be much ado about nothing but I didn’t know it was going to be this much nothing,” Sheriff Dee Anderson said.
That sentiment has been echoed by other law enforcers across the state — and by many open-carry supporters — about the new Texas law that went into effect Jan. 1.
“As we predicted, the passage of the open-carry law has been a real nonevent,” said C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas.
Not everyone agrees.
“It’s too soon to tell,” say opponents such as Carolyn Daniel, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
She and others with Moms Demand Action opposed the law before it took effect and remain opposed.
“Changes in legislation can take years to determine an impact,” she said.
Some say the biggest effect of open carry is the growing number of businesses that have outlawed guns on their properties.
The Legislature first restricted the carrying of pistols in public in 1871.
That law first changed in 1995, when lawmakers allowed handguns to be carried if concealed.
Lawmakers again approved changes last year, and Jan. 1 was the first day Texans who are licensed — which means they are at least 21, have clear criminal records and no record of mental illness — could legally carry their guns openly.
“So far, all seems quiet — which is consistent with what we expected,” said Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney for the Austin-based Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which has had staffers traveling across the state teaching prosecutors, police and judges about details of the law.
In Texas, more than 925,000 people, about 3.4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents, have licenses to carry handguns, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Some gun owners say open carry is just the beginning.
Many say they hope Texas lawmakers will consider “constitutional carry” next year to let Texans openly carry handguns without licenses.
Since Jan. 1, a number of gun owners have posted pictures of themselves openly carrying holstered handguns in public — including in front of the Texas Capitol — on Facebook and Twitter.
And many have been asking which businesses allow people to openly carry on their property and which ones prevent it.
“Yes, it seems some businesses have decided to put up signs, but it’s not as widespread as the media has made it sound,” Grisham said. “This is the same sort of business reaction that occurred in 1995 when the concealed handgun law was passed, so we expect that within a year or so the hype will die down and the signs will begin disappearing.”
Some open-carry opponents say they won’t go into businesses such as Kroger, Home Depot or Bass Pro Shops that have said licensed Texans may openly carry on their property.
And open-carry supporters say they won’t go into businesses such as Half-Price Books, Torchy’s Tacos or AMC movie theaters, which won’t let them openly carry their weapons.
©2016 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: What open carry looks like. Paul Weaver via Flickr