Texas, on Sept. 1, became the 20th – and most populous – state to allow its residents to carry a handgun either open or concealed without a license.
But don’t expect to see much of a change in your everyday life, at least according to the owner of Beeville’s largest gun shop.
“I personally don’t think that we’re even going to notice,” said Jeff Massengill, the proprietor of Americana Arms LLC.
House Bill 1927 removed the requirement of a license for state residents to open or concealed carry. Now, any Texan 21 or older can carry a handgun without a license provided they are not already prohibited from carrying.
Massengill said he expects to see some “growing pains” under the new guidelines but doesn’t think most Texans will even see any noticeable changes.
“The reason I say that is based on the major changes that we have seen since 1996 when we first instituted the concealed-handgun law,” Massengill said. “The media, the Texas Sheriffs Association and a number of law enforcement groups said doing so was going to result in like fender benders becoming shootouts at the OK Corral and every altercation was going to result in the use of deadly force. And in fact, the exact opposite happened; there was a decrease in crime.”
When the state enacted open carry with a license in 2016, Massengill said the same groups touted the same arguments about the dangers such a law would cause.
“You heard the exact same arguments, ‘Well, if we let everybody open carry...’ and that, just on its face, seemed a little bit inane because we’re talking about the same people, and the only difference would be, instead of carrying a weapon inside their waistband, they were going to be carrying it outside of the waistband,” Massengill said.
“I prognosticated at the time that I thought it was going to be a big nothing-burger, and it was.”
He sees another nothing-burger on the horizon with the so-called “constitutional carry.”
“I think that we’re fortunate in that we live in a state where it’s normal for people to be around and practice with firearms, so I don’t think there will be the growing pains that you would see if, say, this became the law of the land in California,” he quipped.
“I think there will be some growing pains, but I don’t think they’re going to be nearly as dramatic as people seem to believe they will.”
He also said he doesn’t expect to see a bump in gun sales because of the new guidelines.
“I don’t think a lot of people are going to run out and buy guns to carry,” he said. “I think they already own them.
“In Texas, we’ve got more than one gun per man, woman and child in the state.”
Despite the state’s removal of the requirement for a license, Massengill said he will continue to offer the license-to-carry classes.
“It’s not a challenging course. It’s an introduction to where they can and can’t carry, which is the most valuable, and of course, we harp on safety,” he said about the class, of which he said more than 3,000 people have taken through his shop over the past 10 years.
“It’s important for people to know that there are resources available. For those people who intend to carry concealed or openly without a license, they should seek the information from the Texas Department of Public Safety website,” Massengill said. “It’s very important for them to understand that there are places that you cannot carry that there’s not going to be clear signage. They need to be familiar with the signs so they know what to look for.
“They could easily walk into a Social Security office or a recruiter’s station or the post office without being aware that they are committing a federal crime that could result in their inability to own firearms ever again.
“They don’t have to get a PhD in ‘gunology’; all they have to do is make themselves familiar with the rules required here in Texas and by the feds. No one is going to take the blame if they get in trouble, and ignorance is no excuse.”