by Greg Tsioros*
New Texas Firearm Laws Raise Concerns
As of January 1st, 2016, it is now legal for some Texas citizens to openly carry loaded handguns in public places. Texas has now joined a group of state governments that are expanding rights for pro-gun advocates at a time when gun violence is a massive national public health concern.
Several arguments have been advanced to justify the passage of House Bill 910, Texas’ recently enacted open carry law. Among these, the two most prominent are the claims that open carry will discourage criminal activity and that it will provide citizens with the means to prevent a mass shooting incident.
While these may sound like noble efforts, they have little basis in reality. There is no conclusive evidence that expanding access to firearms has any positive effect on crime rates or incidents of violence.
Gun control reform is sorely needed in Texas and across the country. Allowing more people to openly carry loaded firearms in public is not the solution.
Gun Ownership and Crime Rates
Perhaps the strongest claim made by pro-gun advocates in favor of allowing concealed carry is that higher rates of gun ownership lead to reduced crime rates. This claim is simply untrue. A study from the National Institutes of Health released in 2013, which analyzed rates of gun-related violence over a nearly 30-year period, found a strong correlation between gun ownership and incidents of violence, especially homicides.
Similarly, a 2015 study from Boston’s Children Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health found that states with the highest levels of gun ownership also had the highest rates of firearm-related assaults and homicides.
Allowing more people to carry handguns openly in public places is not likely to decrease gun crimes. If anything, the data shows that more gun ownership translates to more violent crime.
After the passage of House Bill 910, anyone aged 21 or older with a clean background and the ability to pass a firearms test can legally carry a handgun openly in Texas. Will this change really stop crime and prevent mass shootings? The statistics suggest otherwise.
The “Good Guy with A Gun” Fallacy
The other primary argument used by pro-gun advocates to call for less gun control hinges on the issue of mass shootings. In 2015 alone, the U.S. witnessed 372 mass shootings, defined as a shooting incident in which four or more people are injured or killed.
Pro-gun advocates often claim that a “good guy with a gun”, or a civilian with a concealed or openly carried handgun, is a reliable way to stop or prevent these shootings.
That is simply not the case. In 2015, there were 21 mass shootings in Texas alone. None were stopped by armed civilians with concealed handguns. Across the nation, very few mass shooting incidents are stopped or prevented by armed civilians. They are almost always stopped or prevented by trained law enforcement officers.
Is arming civilians the best way to approach the problem of mass shootings? There is simply no convincing evidence for this strategy.
In the United States, gun ownership rates are declining, as are overall gun violence rates. It appears that we, as a nation, are moving in the right direction, but some pro-gun advocates are determined to fight this trend.
The solution to the problem of gun violence does not lie in a population that is armed to the teeth. The solution lies in embracing better education and stricter gun control, and by keeping guns out of the hands of people who want to use them to do harm.
*Houston defense lawyer Greg Tsioros provides legal advice and aggressive representation for clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at both the state and federal level. Mr. Tsioros handles criminal defense cases of any stature – from orders of non-disclosure and expunctions to more serious DWI and drug charges.