texas and guns -- 7/23/18

Today's selection -- from God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright. Texas and guns:

"In 1996, ... Texas ... passed a law allowing concealed weapons. It was signed by then governor George W. Bush.

"That wasn't sufficient for the gun lobby, however. They wanted Texans to have the right to openly carry their handguns -- as was already legal in forty-four other states. When framed that way, it did seem odd that Texas gun laws were more restrictive than those in most other places, but did we really want gunslingers in our restaurants and theaters? Gun advocates in Texas set people on edge by parading down Congress Avenue in front of the state capitol, carrying their long guns, as was legal, or walking into Target stores, which they selected for symbolic purposes. Polls showed that two-thirds of Texans opposed the measure, as did a large majority of the police chiefs in the state, but their com­plaints didn't register. Open carry became legal on January 1, 2016. It's rare to see anyone in public strapping a sidearm, but everywhere you look on public buildings you see signs in English and Spanish barring weapons, both openly carried and con­cealed. Punitive lawmakers required the font of the lengthy texts be an inch high. Scientific measurements were taken, showing that, when stacked on top of each other, the two signs were the height of a pony.

A notice stating that the Turman
Halfway House in Austin, Texas
prohibits concealed handguns.

"The statistics on crime and guns are often confounding. Nationally, guns account for 60 percent of all homicides; and yet gun violence has been declining for the last decade. The murder rate in Texas has dropped from 16.9 per 100,000 in 1980 to 4.8 in 2015 -- an astonishing decline. In California, the most restric­tive state in the country for gun ownership, the murder rate is exactly the same as in Texas. The states with the lowest homicide rates are North Dakota and Wyoming, which have very permis­sive gun laws; and lowest of all, at 1.6 per 100,000, is Vermont, which has 'constitutional carry' -- i.e., anyone over the age of sixteen can carry a gun. (Vermont is one of thirteen states where permits to carry concealed weapons are not required.) Chicago, which has highly restrictive gun laws, also has one of the high­est rates of gun homicides in the country, but it doesn't compare with the District of Columbia, which tops the charts in both restrictive gun laws and gun homicides. When President Obama said, 'States with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths,' he was including suicides, which account for nearly two­-thirds of gun deaths nationally.

"Still, the rate of murder by gun in the United States is far above that of any other developed Western country, and has been increasing since 2015. The rate of gun murders in the United States is six times higher than in Canada, and more than twenty times higher than in Australia.

"Although I appreciate the efforts of the anti-gun lobby, I doubt there is room for anything other than modest reforms. The NRA has permanently changed America. There are now more than 300 million guns in the country -- 42 percent of the total of civilian firearms in the whole world. Other countries with a high rate of gun ownership (though nowhere near as high as the United States), such as Switzerland, Sweden, and France, have lower rates of gun deaths, largely because of more strin­gent licensing rules and an emphasis on gun safety. Universal background checks that keep guns away from violent offenders, people on the terrorist watch list, and the mentally ill are the most important steps we could take to limit the damage that guns do to our society."

 | www.delanceyplace.com


God Save Texas


Lawrence Wright


Alfred A. Knopf


Copyright 2018 by Lawrence Wright


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