The backwardness and inherent contradictions of Texas gun laws are utterly bizarre. A state legislator in Texas has put forth the following oxymoronic argument against accepting Syrian refugees: ‘[we shouldn’t] because it is too easy to buy guns in Texas.’ That is because the state of Texas does not require a license or background check to purchase some guns. It does require a license for concealed-carry, but makes it simple to obtain one.
The process of obtaining the license is perfunctory – “requiring only that persons must be 21 years of age, not felons, fugitives, people who are chemically dependent or incapable of exercising sound judgment, and those in arrears for taxes or child support” – but no gun safety course is required. To add to their already bizarrely lax policy on gun ownership, the Texas legislature approved an open-carry law effective January 1 that allows Texans with a gun license to not only legally carry firearms in a belt or a holster without concealing them. However, in what is truly an extraordinary act of inspired insanity, the state passed legislation allowing guns to be open-carried into “Texas’ 10 state psychiatric hospitals” (pun intended).
The Statesman notes that before the new open-carry law went into effect, “guns were banned at those state facilities. No one — visitors, deliverymen and the like — could bring firearms anywhere on campus.” Visitors can now bring guns into the buildings while employees are stilled banned from doing so. Ironically, out of an abundance of caution, law enforcement officers, “who are legally allowed to bring their weapons into the facilities regularly lock up their guns before entering Austin State Hospital.”
Not surprisingly, some people are exasperated by the new law. Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), who opposes open-carry, could only say: “Good God.” On the other hand, Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) sees no problem with legally obtained and licensed guns in hospitals. As he sees it, we should throw caution to the wind:
“It’s the responsibility of the operators of the facilities to ensure that the patients are not around dangerous weapons.”
It should not be lost on anyone that Irving, Texas, (Rinaldi’s hometown) made headlines when a Muslim teen was wrongly arrested in school for making a clock. Irving is also home to a Mayor who sees herself as an anti-Sharia-law crusader who likes to stoke the flames of Islamophobia. And it’s the place in which heavily armed right-wing thugs terrorized peaceful worshippers outside a mosque.
Of course supporters claim open-carry will enhance public safety. As Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick opines: “Everywhere that we have more citizens carrying guns, crime is less…but particularly open carry, the crime is down 25 percent…Having law-abiding citizens having guns is a good thing.” However, Politifact rated Patrick’s claim Mostly False – noting that the 25 percent he is referring to was in a study showing violent crime and murder down across the country, and there is no evidence showing concealed-carry permits have any causal effect.
Besides the obvious safety factor in displaying weapons to people with mental illness, the stupidity is numbing, as it most certainly intimidates those who have cognitive and behavioral issues. Beth Mitchell, with Disability Rights Texas — a federally funded organization that advocates for people with mental illness — says allowing people to bring guns on campus:
“makes no sense…I don’t know who concocted this idea, who thought this would be a rational policy for the State of Texas…It’s only going to going to create fear among the patients themselves.”
This idea was concocted by Republicans in the Texas state legislature beholden to blood-money flowing to them from the NRA. So somebody over 21, with no required safety training, can strap on a gun and carry it openly into Texas state psychiatric facilities. It seems, as one commenter noted, ‘the real patients in psychiatric hospitals reside in the Texas state legislature.’
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.