March 30, 2006
More on the concealed carry law
We all got a good schadenfreudistic laugh out of Tom DeLay's gun woes, but I was curious about the provision in that law that called for the suspension of a concealed-carry license (CCL) for a person under a felony indictment. I sent an inquiry to then-State Senator, now Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and wound up having a pleasant chat with him about it. I'm not the world's best note-taker, but here's what I got from the conversation:
- While the CCL bill was passed in 1995, there had been previous attempts to do so going back to 1989. A gutted version of the bill was passed in 1993 that called for a nonbinding referendum, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Ann Richards. The suspension requirement that tripped up DeLay is something that was a part of the bill all through its history, and he agreed when I suggested that it came from a "tough on crime" mindset that was more than what was needed for these purposes.
- Many people and groups played a role in putting together the bill - Commissioner Patterson cited DPS as having a big part in it. Patterson's goal in 1995 was to remove what he thought were "onerous" provisions from the earlier attempts that would have placed a bigger burden on potential handgun carriers. The amount of training required for a CCL was an example of such a provision.
- Patterson eventually wrote the bill himself longhand on a legal pad in his kitchen. He said he tried to balance the concerns everyone had in order to get a bill that could pass.
- He believes that in the end, he gave up too much in getting that bill passed; he believes that he'd have still had the votes to pass it even if he'd held firmer on some of the concessions he made to this person or that's need to position himself politically on the bill.
- The aformentioned suspension-for-felony-indictment provision is an example of something he'd have done differently if he had it to do over again. While he would have included that for "assaultive" felonies, he did not think that the broad-based suspension requirement was fair. We agreed that the only reason it's getting attention now is because of the high profile of Tom DeLay.
I want to add that I opposed this bill in 1995. I thought it would lead to more opportunistic gun violence. That has not happened, a point Patterson makes in an op-ed he wrote (PDF) to commemorate the law's tenth anniversary. My thinking on the issue of guns and gun control has evolved over the years. I found that I could not reconcile my strong belief in personal freedom for things like reproductive choice with a belief in the need to restrict gun ownership. So, I changed. I can't say I like guns, but as with abortion, that doesn't mean I think someone else should be forbidden to have access to them.
My thanks to Jerry Patterson for his feedback on this.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 30, 2006 to That's our Lege
I am with you dead-on with respect to my stance on gun-ownership and right-to carry laws. My position changed as I grew more uncomfortable with the government's increasing intrusion into our personal space. Interestingly, it was the current "less government" administration that caused my concern. Also, the precipitous drop in the murder rate in the late 90s and early 00s showed that there is more to the murder rate equation than gun ownership.
As for DeLay's situation, I don't particularly care if he get's his permit back. It is just amusing to watch him get bitten by his own dog.
My objections to guns have always been in the more combat-oriented ones, such as assault rifles and the like. But in general, I'm a big believer that if we're going to defend the Bill of Rights, we can't skip one :)
Of course, my occasional "Scare myself with how loony some wingnuts are" trips to nicedoggie.net are enough to terrify me as to WHO is carrying guns and what they might do with them... But sometimes upholding liberty means dealing with being afraid.
I might point out that in every place that gun bans have been instituted, including Washington DC, New York, Chicago, the UK, and Austrailia, violent crime rates, especially those involving gun violence have skyrocketed, while elsewhere where gun restrictions have been eased, violent crime, especially gun crime has fallen precipitously. Can there be a one to one correlation? It cannot be proven, but statistically, you are far safer in Houston, than you are anywhere in the UK, or Washington DC.
There is no constitutional basis for banning ANY weapon. The ONE time that the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue at all, was back in the mid 30's and it involved the taxation of machine guns and sawed off shotguns (supposedly because they had no valid military use, they were exempt from the "militia". Yes, you read that right, the government claimed that machine guns were not militarily useful so that they could find a way to tax them.). The plaintiffs were seasoned criminals and declined to show up for the hearing, so the government won it's case, not on the case's merits, but by default. There has not been a follow up ruling since. There is a saying that bad cases make for bad law, and this is one of those cases. All other bans and taxes and registrations draw thier basis from this one case. Most of the rulings that have expanded upon this taxation power have come from the 9th circuit in San Francisco. The same place where the city is trying to ban all guns, even those carried by off duty police officers.
New York's murder rate has plummetted to record lows. Chicago's has dropped substantially the last couple of years, after being stubbornly high. Houston's, meanwhile has jumped in the last year and a half, after dropping 70%. None of these cities has changed their gun laws recently.
I repeat: there is more to the murder rate than gun ownership. My opposition to gun control has evolved in spite of felony use of statistics and anecdotes, such as rorschach's.