Texans Can Now Open Carry; Here’s What That Means for the Rest of Us

Open Carry Law

As my boyfriend and I prepared for a night out with friends, I received a shocking text from a friend: “one of our friends got shot.” Shot? On our college campus. A place we spend 90% of our time? I couldn’t believe what I read.

Sara Mutschlechner was driving along North Elm Street in Denton, Texas around 2 a.m. January 1, 2016, when a black car pulled up next to her. Words were exchanged and someone in the SUV opened fire, police said. Mutschlechner was shot in the head, lost control of her car, and crashed into a nearby electrical pole. Not too long after arriving at the hospital, Sara took her last breath; a breath taken from her with utter disregard for human life.

Sara represents any kid, teenager, or adult whose life is put in the hands of a society that doesn’t know right from wrong. Why did these people target Sara, an innocent college student, full of life and love to give? How could this have happened so close to home, only a few streets from my one-bedroom student apartment? There are so many questions left unanswered after this terrible tragedy.

As of January 1, 2016, licensed firearm owners in Texas are permitted to openly carry a handgun in most public areas, making Texas the most occupied state in the U.S. to grant permission to “open carry”. A Texan myself, I can say there is only one thing on my mind: fear. Not only for all the Sara’s in the world; defenseless, vulnerable people who just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but also for my future children, friends, in-laws and others.

According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, only five states prohibit the open carry; thirty-one states allow the open carrying of a handgun without any license or permit; and fifteen states require some form of license or permit in order to openly carry a handgun. Even though open carry is not a new practice, it’s a practice that hits close to home with so many gun-related crimes occurring across the country. The Gun Violence Archive reports that in 2015 alone, there have been 51,796 gun-related incidents, 13,171 of which resulted in death. That’s 686 children, 2,648 teens, and countless adults who are no longer with their families and who no longer have a say in the safety of this country.

Not too long ago in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where open carry is also legal, a woman reported a suspicious man armed with a rifle. The 911 audio recordings revealed that because Colorado is an open carry state, the dispatcher assigned the call as not involving “an imminent life threat.” Shortly after the woman’s frantic 911 call, the man shot and killed three people before dying in a shootout with police. Proponents of the new gun laws argue that open carrying in public makes communities safer. But, “The law that allows guns to be carried on display in Colorado may have just done the opposite,” said Mark Follman of National Affairs.

On January 5, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it will attempt to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which allows gun dealers to operate business at gun shows and on the Internet without requiring background checks.  According to Governing.com, “most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals — federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks.” Similarly, when buying guns online, no law prohibits buying gun parts and building a gun oneself. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives states “a person is prohibited from assembling a non-sporting semi-automatic rifle or shotgun from 10 or more imported parts.” However, “firearms may be lawfully made by persons who do not hold a manufacturer’s license under the GCA provided they are not for sale or distribution and the maker is not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms”. Now, I don’t know about you, but that last part didn’t exactly have me breathing a sigh of relief.

And what about fake IDs? According to a report by the General Accounting Office, “undercover agents using fake identifications easily foiled the national background check system,” which is intended to prevent people with dicey criminal records from buying guns. The report details an investigation by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, in which agents from the Office of Special Investigations attempted to use false identifications to buy firearms from licensed dealers in: Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Virginia and West Virginia. The scary part: “their success rate was 100 percent.” Even more scary: “the name could be Bugs Bunny and as long as there is no criminal record on file, the gun can be sold,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the gun control advocate who asked the GAO to conduct the investigation. According to Frosch, “the system has no way of verifying that the name provided by the buyer is actually theirs,” which allowed the agents with fake names and addresses to obtain not only small-scale handguns, but also “semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines.”

We are the generation most affected by gun control laws. I’m 19 years old and as soon as I enter a dark movie theater, I get scared. Scared that at any moment, a man or woman could stand up, unannounced, and start shooting at innocent movie goers. But it doesn’t stop there. At any business, school, church and event I go to, I feel like I am indirectly risking my life just being out in public, where any man or woman could have a gun at his or her hip, ready to shoot the first person that looks at him or her the wrong way, or gives him or her an attitude; who’s to say people have to have a good reason to shoot?

Gun violence is a topic that needs to be discussed because it affects every single one of us. It’s crucial for communities to make the most rational decision for not only their own community, but for society as a whole. So how can you make a difference? Talk about the issues the media outlets and politicians fail to shed light on. Converse with your friends and share your knowledge. The only way gun violence in the U.S. is going to go away is if we, millennials, take a stand and say “this is not right”. We all deserve a future; don’t let ignorance and lack of interest in the subject ruin the world for future generations. We all have the power to change the landscape, but first we must uncover what’s hidden underneath the soil.

 

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