Taming the Frontier
When Americans think about Texas, they often think about guns. For generations in TV shows, movies, song, and stories, names like Winchester, Colt, Remington, Sharps, and Smith & Wesson have become part of our national lore.
From gun-slinging outlaws to the famed Texas Rangers that hunted them, the gun has always been part of the state’s mystique and culture. Whether battling outlaws, the Mexican military, or native tribes, the association between Texas and guns runs deep.
This Ain’t the Wild West
To this day, you will see the “Come and Take It” flag from the Battle of Gonzales still proudly and prominently displayed around Texas.
In fact, “Come and Take It” has become the modern cry from gun rights activists, except today instead of railing against the Santa Anna’s Mexican army, Texans take up the challenge to the US Federal Government, and even their own state’s elected leaders. And instead of a cannon, the flag features a modern AR-15 style rifle. Gun culture is alive and well in Texas!
You might, therefore, be surprised to learn that for much of Texas history, the state had some of the toughest gun control measures in the country.
In 1870, Texas became the first state to ban the carrying of any deadly weapon outside of homes, a law that stayed on the books for 100 years!
It wasn’t until 1973, long after Davey Crockett and “Old Betsy” made their stand at the Alamo, that Texas began to loosen restrictions on firearms and only began allowing licensed carry in 1995.
Locked and Loaded in Modern Texas
Beginning with the first concealed carry license law in 1995, Texas has bucked that history and become one of the leading states for gun law liberalization.
Whether at the gun range or the grocery store, it is common to see pistol-packing Texans with their sidearms proudly holstered in defense of their family, their state, their rights, and public safety.
From Grapevine to Galveston, Tyler to El Paso, modern Texas gun laws have ushered in a new era of freedom and security for the state’s 29 million residents.
Since 1995, the gun experience in Texas has evolved dramatically.
After concealed carry, the next big change came in 2007 when Texas passed the castle doctrine which states that a person has no duty to retreat in defense of their home or vehicle.
In 2015, concealed carry licenses became handgun licenses as the law was amended to permit the open carry of handguns as well.
Six years later, the entire license scheme was scrapped in 2021 to permit what advocates call “Constitutional Carry” which allows Texas citizens over the age of 21 who is not otherwise prohibited to carry a pistol or rifle openly or concealed without a requirement for training, range testing, or background checks.
While many knowledgeable gun training experts have raised concerns about a person walking around with a loaded firearm and little training, the new laws reflect a deep belief among Texans that a firearm is a responsibility that most gun owners will take seriously.
There is plenty of evidence to support this position.
Similar laws have been on the books in other states for years without their streets turning into the O.K. Corral. The Vermont Constitution legalized the unrestricted carrying of firearms way back in 1777, before it was even a state! They join Maine and New Hampshire as the safest states in America and all three enjoy Constitutional Carry.
From 2000-2016, gun sales in Texas increased by 137% and keep going up as the laws are liberalized to allow more Texans to enjoy their rights. Today, almost 2 in 5 Texans own at least one of the estimated 29 million firearms in the state.
Despite this, violent crime has not increased. In 1995, Texas ranked 17th in violent crime among all the states. Today, Texas ranks as 17th.
This may be largely due to something that gun control advocates tend to ignore…good guys with a gun aren’t the problem, criminals are. Handgun license holders are statistically the least likely demographic to commit a gun crime.
A Long, Strange Trip
Despite the state’s storied reputation of outlaws, gunslingers, military conquest, and the “wild west,” Texas history is far more complex than most people realize. While gun ownership has long been part of the Texas experience, liberal gun laws have not.
Those are a recent development. Whether the open, unrestricted carrying of guns will lead to more violence remains to be seen, the experience of other states and Texas so far seems to indicate that Texans want guns for the sake of their family and their security, not to knock off trains and banks.
It All Starts With You
None the less, gun training from a licensed trainer is essential. So is range time. A gun is a responsibility that is heavier than a mountain and no prospective gun owner should ever forget it.
It is essential to be familiar with the law and your responsibilities, as well as proficient with your gun, before you ever carry it outside your home.
The best way to do that is to visit your local gun store and have a conversation. They are there to be helpful and are very knowledgeable.
They will not only help you find the right weapon for your needs, they can point you towards resources that will ensure you have the information, experience, and training to own your responsibility as a gun owner. We owe to ourselves and each other to do no less.