Checking In On Texas After A Week Of Constitutional Carry

(AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)

The new Constitutional Carry law in Texas has been in place for a week now, and not surprisingly the state hasn’t devolved into a dystopian hellscape or an anarchic free-for-all, despite the predictions of doom from the gun control lobby. It’s actually been fairly quiet, which means news outlets in the state have had to look pretty hard to come up with some sort of controversy over the implementation of the law. So far, they haven’t found much.

Texans may no longer need a license and its associated background check to pack their pistols in public, but gun owners can still expect to be screened by law enforcement before entering the state Capitol.

The vetting of those carrying guns without a license comes under a policy quietly implemented on Sept. 1 — the day the law took effect. Anyone carrying without a permit is required to check in at the Capitol’s west entrance, “where they will be appropriately screened” by state troopers, the Texas Department of Public Safety told The Dallas Morning News.

Firearm instructor Michael Cargill on Tuesday entered the building’s west entrance. When he told troopers he was carrying permitless, Cargill said he was asked to provide identification. A trooper then placed a phone call and gave someone Cargill’s driver’s license number.

About three minutes later, Cargill was allowed entry.

Cargill immediately recounted to The News that the trooper was running a “criminal history check” to see if Cargill qualified to carry without a permit under the new law.

“What [state officials] are saying and doing are two different things,” said Cargill, who owns Central Texas Gun Works. ”They do believe they need to vet people before they walk into that building carrying a gun.”

Now, this isn’t a surprise to folks who’ve been paying close attention to the permitless carry law. In fact Cargill mentioned this provision when he joined me on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co the day that Constitutional Carry took effect. And folks who are carrying without a permit aren’t being denied access to the state Capitol unless the check reveals that they’re ineligible to legally own a gun. Still, some folks on both sides of the gun control fight are crying foul.

Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, said the vetting policy seemingly provides state decision makers at the Capitol with a higher level of protection than they’re offering other government buildings.

“In any other location with permitless carry, we have no idea whether people have had a background check and if they are legally carrying,” Switzer said. “There are legitimate questions why you and I on the street, out in public, don’t have that same protection, and we would support having the same protection because permitless carry is dangerous.”

Leave it to the gun control lobby to lie about the new law. Despite Switzer’s claim, police can in fact run a criminal check on someone carrying without an active carry license, though given the fact that the vast majority of people will be carrying concealed, it’s not likely to happen that often. But Switzer’s also ignoring the fact that even under the old law there was no way for the average citizen to know if others were legally carrying or not. Criminals don’t usually advertise the fact that they’re carrying in violation of the law, after all.

“All law-abiding gun owners should be treated equally under the law,” said Chris McNutt, executive director of Texas Gun Rights. “The new Capitol policy is discriminating against those who cannot afford a license.”

Others are unbothered by the vetting policy.

“In as much as DPS is charged with the protection of all the legislators and visitors to the Capitol, they’re not violating either the letter or the spirit of the law,” said Andi Turner, legislative director for the Texas State Rifle Association.

If folks who are carrying without a license were actually being denied entrance into the state Capitol, I’d agree with McNutt that the policy was discriminatory. That’s not what’s happening, however. Every gun owner entering the building is being screened, including those with carry licenses. If you have an active license, that’s evidence that you’re legally allowed to carry your firearm. If you don’t, a quick background check (Cargill said it took him about three minutes to clear security) can provide the same evidence and allow you entry into the Capitol.

If this is the biggest controversy to emerge in the wake of Constitutional Carry taking effect, I’d say the law is working out pretty well. Of course there’s always room for improvement, and I’m sure that there’ll be tweaks offered by lawmakers in the next regular legislative session, but at the moment it appears that any issues that have popped up are more molehills than mountains.