Houston Mayor Misleads On Constitutional Carry

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is entitled to his own opinion about Texas’ new Constitutional Carry law, but he’s not entitled to make up his own facts. So, on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re fact-checking the mayor’s claims about permitless carry, as well as offering a constructive solution to his concerns about untrained gun owners lawfully carrying.

Turner’s a longtime anti-gun advocate who’s vocally opposed every Second Amendment protection put in place by the state legislature while he’s been running Houston. Earlier this year he joined other mayors like Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot and Austin’s to press the Biden administration on universal background checks, but now he’s taking aim at the new state law that allows lawful gun owners to exercise their right to carry without a government-issued permission slip. In a press release, Turner claims that with Constitutional Carry now in effect, Houstonians will be less safe.

“As Mayor of Houston, I am very concerned that the State of Texas loosened gun laws, especially during a time of increased gun violence. Many Texans prize their Second Amendment rights, but the Second Amendment does not provide for the right of reckless endangerment.

No, it does not, but it does guarantee the right to bear arms. Is Turner suggesting that carrying a firearm in self-defense is inherently reckless or dangerous unless the government steps in and licenses a gun owner to do so? Apparently so.

“According to Everytown for Gun Safety, handgun homicide rates increase 11% and violent crime increases 13-15% in states that weaken their permitting process. Under this bill, even a law-abiding citizen can become a danger. Someone who has literally no firearms training and has never even fired a gun could legally carry a gun. They could become a danger to themselves and others due to mishandling a deadly weapon.

Two things here: first, Everytown for Gun Safety doesn’t like “shall issue” concealed carry laws any more than they approve of Constitutional Carry, so citing them in support of keeping the old law in place doesn’t make much sense. As for Everytown’s claims, just take a look at what’s happened in Florida since they “weakened their permitting process” in 1987. From 1988 to 2019, the state’s homicide rate declined from 11.1 to 5.2 per 100,000; a drop of more than 50%. Similarly, overall violent crime rates fell from a whopping 1,117.7 in 1988 to 378.4 in 2019. At the same time, the number of Floridians with concealed carry licenses grew from 0 to nearly 2,000,000.

Arizona adopted Constitutional Carry in 2010, and since then its homicide rate has fallen from 6.4 to 5.0 per 100,000. In Kansas the homicide rate has declined from 4.3 to 3.6 per 100k in the first three years that the law was in place. During that same time period, murders in “may issue” Maryland rose from 8.0 to 9.0 per 100k.

Everytown’s statistics are meaningless, and so too is Turner’s argument that people can legally carry now without any training. Very few people are going to do that, for the simple reason that if you want to carry a firearm in self-defense, you’re also going to want to be proficient with that firearm. None of the dire predictions that Turner is making about Texas have come to pass in other Constitutional Carry states, but that won’t stop him from trying to scare his constituents about the new law.

Of all of Turner’s claims, however, I think this one is the most dishonest.

“This flawed new law will have a harmful impact inside our neighborhoods and on our streets. Unregulated guns aggravate our public safety problems.

“My administration seeks to increase public safety and build trust among Houstonians. That work will continue despite the harmful effects of HB 1927.

Houston’s Youth Violence Plan, spearheaded by the Houston Health Department, aims to address the root causes of violence and promote opportunities for prevention through evidence-based crime prevention solutions.

“I join the many Houstonians who are not happy with the elimination of gun permitting and the associated basic firearm safety training.”

Concealed carry laws aren’t going away now that Constitutional Carry has taken effect, and neither will the thousands of firearms instructors across the state. But if Turner is so concerned about people carrying a gun without getting any training, I have a suggestion for him: hold basic pistol courses free of charge at Houston rec centers and in public parks.

No, seriously. Houston has received more than $20-million in CARES Act funding, so why not take a million bucks and put it towards firearms training in underserved communities? I’m sure there are plenty of local firearms instructors who’d be willing to contract with the city to run classes on a weekly or monthly basis, and there might even be some firearms instructors within the Houston Police Department who’d be willing to volunteer their time to help educate residents on how to be safe and responsible with a firearm.

My advice to Sylvester Turner? Put up or shut up. If you’re worried about people carrying without training, offer them more opportunities to get a few hours of classroom instruction. Heck, subsidize a few hours at the range and a hundred rounds of ammo. Impotently complaining about a law that ensures Texans can exercise their constitutionally protected rights, on the other hand, isn’t a good look or a sound policy.

Sep 21, 2021 10:30 AM ET