Texas concealed gun law nears 20th anniversary

AUSTIN (KXAN) — About 584,000 Texans are now licensed to carry concealed handguns, including the foreman involved in Wednesday’s shooting at an Austin construction project in West Campus.

It may have saved his life. According to police he pulled his gun after being attacked by a disgruntled former employee who came to the site and opened fire.

The law was passed in 1995, spearheaded by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, then a second term state senator from the Galveston area. Patterson believed then, and now, that carrying a weapon can save your life.

“If you’re going to commit capital murder which is punishable by death, you’re not going to be deterred by a Class A misdemeanor of unlawful possession of a handgun,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

One in 45 Texans have a concealed carry license, about 2 percent of the state’s population. This year training regulations were eased and Patterson believes critics have been proven wrong over the years.

“The opposition predicted blood in the streets, a shootout at every four-way intersection,” he said. “What has happened is that since that time, firearm homicides in Texas are down 42 percent.” Those numbers are supported by FBI data.

Interestingly, Patterson recalls that he had all the votes he needed for easy passage lined up, when Tejano star Selena was murdered in cold blood in Corpus Christi.

“All of a sudden the polls went south,” he explained. “We had a favorable margin and it went down, it was shaky at that time.”

Eventually Patterson held enough votes to pass the law, and Governor George W. Bush signed it.

Patterson believes the ideal outcome of a concealed gun is no gun play at all. That by flashing it or brandishing it, a showdown can be deterred from going any further.

Texas law says you must be 21 to get a concealed carry permit, without any felony conviction. You may not carry a gun into a courthouse, schoolhouse building or establishments that generate 51 percent or more of their revenue from liquor sales.

Government meetings and churches may also ban guns but must post that ban in advance.

Training time has been reduced this year from 10 to 15 hours, down to four to six hours, and a social security number is no longer required.

In 2010, Texas had eleven firearm homicides per 100,000 residents. That is slightly higher than the U.S. average of 10 per 100,000. Twenty-three states have a higher firearm homicide rate than Texas.

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