People participate in a Second Amendment rally in Olmos Park in 2018.
People participate in a Second Amendment rally in Olmos Park in 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Texas law enforcement opposed passage of House Bill 1927, the new law in Texas that allows people to start carrying a handgun in public without a permit. The law goes into effect Wednesday, Sept. 1.

There’s a new phrase in the lexicon to describe the latest “gun right.” It’s called “permitless carry,” wording that conveniently omits the word “gun” or “firearm.” Pro-gun groups call it “Constitutional Carry.”

What is patriotic about more people carrying guns into public places?

It seems odd at first glance that Republican leaders who aggressively pushed for the further loosening of the state’s gun laws would act despite the near-universal opposition of police chiefs, sheriffs, and others who spoke out against the legislation and tend to be politically conservative.

On the other hand, anytime politicians can claim to be defending the Second Amendment issue, no matter how cynical that play may be, they are animating hard-right Republican primary voters.

Responsible law enforcement leaders, sadly, are no match for Republican primary voters when it comes to how elected officials set their priorities. Self-interest, unfortunately, trumps the public interest.

“You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights,” Abbott was quoted as saying as he signed the bill into law in June. “But today, I signed documents that instilled freedom in the Lone Star State.”

I do not feel freer as Sept. 1 approaches, Governor. I feel dread. We already see the effect of gunplay in this state in road rage incidents, late night/early morning shootouts at bars by alcohol-fueled patrons, and the terrible outcomes when mentally disturbed individuals can get their hands on guns. What happens when protestors line up against one another, and tempers flare?

Law enforcement here and nationwide also has traditionally opposed the sale and legal possession of assault weapons, but that has had no effect on the many red-state legislatures, even after repeat incidents of mass shootings at schools, stores, churches, and other gathering places.

“When it comes down to it, it’s just a sense of disappointment that the bill ultimately was passed,” Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, told the Texas Tribune.

There was some pretense on the eve of the 2021 legislative session among Republican state leaders to promise tightened gun laws and improved background checks, with the people’s memories still fresh of mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both offered rhetorical assurances.

Instead, the state’s ruling party supported multiple bills that make it even easier to legally brandish a gun in public. Anyone 21 years or older who doesn’t have a felony or domestic violence record will be free to carry a gun. A training course on gun safety is not required. Just get your gun and start packing.

How many Texans will pack a gun, come Sept. 1, in their vehicles, their carry bags and purses, or on their bodies? Why do we need guns to live our daily lives? What purpose will drive people to carry a handgun as if it were, like a smartphone or wallet, part of being dressed and ready to go?

The new law is the most concerning of multiple pro-gun laws passed this session, but it is not the only one. Seven pro-gun-rights bills were signed by Abbott. House Bill 957 paves the way for the manufacture and sale of “Made in Texas” suppressors, a law intended to serve as a workaround for federal laws restricting ownership of silencers. Why would any law-abiding citizen need a silencer on his or her firearm?

House Bill 2622 is posited as a Second Amendment law, one freeing “Texas personnel and resources from (enforcement of) federal gun-related laws enacted after January 19, 2021, that are not in Texas law. If an entity or agency violates the provision and tries to help enforce future federal gun laws, that entity will be denied state funding.”

I am unfamiliar with state laws that negate federal laws. Not surprisingly, so are federal law enforcement authorities who have warned would-be users they can be prosecuted if caught in possession of a firearm silencer.

This is Texas on its current path of extreme politics playing to a small but influential percentage of voters in this highly gerrymandered state where the views of a majority of citizens can be ignored by officeholders.

What to do? Teach your children: Be careful and walk away from confrontation.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.