The old admonition about not messing with Texas (expand that to Texans) has become more a reality than ever. If you should happen to be visiting the Lone Star State be careful who you bump into … literally that is. He or she might take offense.
At the very time the nation is finally waking up to the dangers of unfettered gun distribution and President Barack Obama is looking for ways to take executive action, the wannabe Buckeroos of the Wild West (mainly Republican legislators) have overturned an 1871 state law prohibiting the open carry of firearms. Now, it seems, it takes less time to get through security at the state capitol if you’re displaying your six shooters to 9 millimeter semi-automatics or whatever poison you choose. The unarmed “greenhorns” stand in long lines to go through the metal detectors.
When Obama revealed in a New Year radio broadcast that he was going to talk to his attorney general about what legal steps he could take without congressional interference to slow down American gun deaths now equal to those in auto accidents, the Texas governor issued a retaliatory tweet that sounded more like an offer for the president to meet him in the street – probably at sundown – than just a political taunt.
“Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response? COME&TAKE IT,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbot wrote in a “draw, pardner” demand that seems more than a little out of line.
However, there are those out there attempting to work in the middle of the current controversy with sensible compromises that preserve Second Amendment principles while taking steps to protect the rights and safety of all citizens, including those who don’t want to bear arms, if there are any left. Believe it or not the groups for sane solutions include the American Firearms Retailers Association and Evolve whose aim is to reduce accidental loss of life by promoting gun safety including controversial gun locks and other procedures opposed by gun advocates. AFRA is made up of federally licensed gun dealers and Evolve is a privately funded group which counsels that while owning a gun may be a right, “it doesn’t give one a right to be a dumbass.”
These groups and others represent “the silent majority” of Americans who believe background checks should be expanded to gun show and Internet sellers and require their licensing, a step Obama reportedly believes can be taken legally through his own order. Expanding background checks is favored by 89 percent of Americans, according to recent polls. Despite its popularity, Obama’s efforts to accomplish broadening the background policy through legislation failed in the Senate, mainly because of four votes from members of his own Democratic Party.
The president’s efforts have been lagging since that vote until recently when the nation was shocked by a mass murder in San Bernardino, Calif. by those claiming allegiance to the terrorist organization, ISIS.
The so-called “middle grounders” are in sharp contrast to the fringe operators on the right and left of the gun debate; those who would ban all guns and lobbyists for no laws. The National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sport Foundation, both mouthpieces for the gun manufacturers, continue their unrelenting opposition to any effort on either state or national levels that restrict the distribution of weapons and ammunition. They argue that the Second Amendment comes without qualification and requires absolute fealty to uninhibited possession anywhere in any venue.
A spokesman for AFRA said it was dedicated to showing there is a middle ground that gets things accomplished by avoiding the extremes on both sides. Legitimate gun dealers, he argued, don’t oppose sensible measures but are small business men who get jumped on from all directions when a disaster occurs.
“The ATF targets them, the NSSF ignores them and gun manufacturers continually place them at risk with poorly marked serial numbers and so forth. Many are family owned business who work hard to prevent guns from landing in the wrong hands. They get little support.”
The action in Texas shows that the “safe and sane” elements have an uphill fight. Surveys show that gun sales surged after San Bernardino and that 50 percent of Americans believe encouraging legal gun carrying is a better reaction to terrorists than new laws. As I said, don’t mess with Texas.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: email@example.com.