Archive for the ‘Texas Legislature’ Category

posted by Charles L. Cotton on Dec 22

If you were to stop ten people on the streets of most cities and towns in Texas and ask them how they feel about “open-carry” the vast majority of them would have no idea what you are asking.  Some would probably think you were talking about walking down the street with an open beer in your hand, relating it in their mind to the Texas law against having open containers in a motor vehicle.  “Open-carry” for purposes of this article refers to legally carrying a self-defense handgun in a holster that it is not concealed from public view.

A significant percentage of Texas residents believe that open-carry is currently legal in Texas, but they are mistaken, except in a few locations.  One can openly carry a handgun on their own property, while engaging in sporting activities in which handguns are commonly used (ex.  hunting and shooting matches), and in their place of business or employment under certain circumstances.

Other Texans mistakenly believe that there is a law in Texas that specifically prohibits carrying handguns openly.  There is no law in Texas that specifically addresses open-carry except in the limited context of a Concealed Handgun licensee carrying a handgun.  (CHL’s must keep their handguns concealed.)  This distinction in the law is not merely trivia for your amusement; it is a critical factor in legislation that seeks to legalize the carrying of self-defense handguns openly.

Representative Lavender introduced an open-carry bill in the 2009 Texas legislative session, and he is fully expected to do so again in 2013.  Since this subject will again be raised in the Texas Legislature, it is this writer’s goal to provide useful information to my fellow Texans so they will not needlessly fear the concept of openly carrying a self-defense handgun.

History of Open-Carry in Texas

It will probably be helpful to briefly cover the history of open-carry in Texas before getting into the issues that have arisen in the past and that we can expect to hear again in 2013.  Since shortly after the end of the Civil War, it is been illegal for Texans to carry handguns outside your home, except in very limited circumstances (see above).  In 1995, the Texas Legislature passed the first concealed handgun statute creating a system whereby Texans and nonresidents could obtain a Concealed Handgun License.  The statute requires everyone who carries a handgun under the authority of their Concealed Handgun License to keep their handgun concealed so it will not be seen by the general public.

It is also legal for Texans to have a handgun in their motor vehicle, or a motor vehicle under their control, without first obtaining a Texas Concealed Handgun License.  However, Texas law requires that persons carrying a handgun in their motor vehicle make sure that their gun is not in plain view.  So although Texas has never had a stand-alone law prohibiting open-carry of handguns, it has been illegal to do so either because of the general prohibition on carrying handguns, or due to the restrictions placed on concealed handgun licensees and motorists with handguns in their cars.

Licensed v. Unlicensed Open-Carry

People who are unfamiliar with the open-carry topic are likely to hear discussions about licensed open-carry vs. unlicensed open-carry and wonder about the difference.  (Some people refer to unlicensed open-carry as “constitutional carry.”) Licensed open-carry means that only people who hold a Texas Concealed Handgun License, or a license issued by another state that is recognized under Texas law, will be able to openly carry a handgun.  Unlicensed open-carry would allow all citizens who can legally possess firearms under both Texas and Federal law to openly carry a handgun.

This article will be dealing only with licensed open-carry since that is the bill that was introduced in the 2009 Texas Legislative Session and that is what is expected to be filed by Representative Lavender in the 2013 Texas Legislative Session.

Three Groups of People

Generally speaking, people who support, oppose, or fall somewhere in the middle, in terms of  open-carry in Texas, fall into three groups.  Some strongly support open-carry and these people tend to prefer unlicensed open-carry but will reluctantly acquiesce to requiring a Texas Concealed Handgun License in order to legally open-carry.  The number of people falling into this first group is unknown, but it is relatively small in comparison to the total Texas population.

The group of people who strongly oppose open-carry is small.  It is comprised primarily of law enforcement officers and people who support citizens carrying self-defense handguns, but who have strong reservations about the wisdom of openly carrying a self-defense handgun from a tactical viewpoint.  The vast majority of Texans have no strong feelings on either side of the issue, although there are some who fear that a poorly drafted open-carry bill could lead to large numbers of businesses posting their property as off-limits to anyone carrying a handgun, whether openly or concealed.

Common Claims and Allegations

Anyone taking enough interest in the open-carry issue to listen to the debates and read any of the Internet discussion boards are going to be faced with certain claims and allegations made by those on either side of the issue.  Most of the major claims and allegations are discussed below.

Americans Enjoy a Constitutionally Protected Right to Openly Carry Handguns

Many open-carry supporters claim that the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to openly carry a handgun without first obtaining a license.  These folks typically point to certain language in the Heller decision to support their position.

Appellate decisions, especially those issued by the United States Supreme Court, often contain language that does not directly impact the question at issue.  This language is called dicta and it cannot be cited as authority in any other cases.  However, dicta is valuable in that it gives some insight as to how the court will likely rule in future cases when this language is directly related to the ultimate issue in question.  Of course, this judicial hint may lose value if the makeup of the Supreme Court changes before a follow-up case is heard.

The bottom line is this; there is no United States Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to openly carry a handgun, either with or without a license.  There is a split of opinions in the courts of appeal in the federal system, with at least one recognizing that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution does protect a right to carry a concealed handgun with a license.  There are other federal appellate courts that have held the opposite, so the stage is set for the United States Supreme Court to take a case dealing with citizens’ right to carry a self-defense handgun.  Hopefully, we will have a decision in the not too distant future and that it will recognize that a citizen’s right to self-defense exists outside one’s home.

Forty-four States Currently Allow Open-Carry

While this may be technically correct, it is somewhat misleading.  In many states where there is no law prohibiting open-carry, it simply is not done.  Often this results in law enforcement officers receiving so-called “man with a gun” calls forcing them to interact with citizens openly carrying handguns.  Sometimes this interaction is benign, sometimes it is not.

Often, what is technically legal is not actually done.  For example, it is technically legal to carry a long gun (rifle or shotgun) virtually everywhere in Texas.  However, if one were to throw their AR-15 over their shoulder and walk down Main Street in downtown Houston, Houston Police officers will make sure the experience was unpleasant.

Open-Carry is Necessary in Texas to Prevent People from Being Arrested for Accidentally Exposing Their Handgun

This is one of the more commonly stated reasons for passage of open-carry in Texas.  Reliance upon this argument by open-carry supporters is misplaced as Texas law is abundantly clear.  In order to violate the current statute, a concealed handgun licensee must intentionally fail to conceal their handgun.  Requiring only intentional conduct, rather than the typical standard of doing something “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly,” means that accidental exposure of a handgun does not violate Texas law.

Some open-carry supporters provide anecdotal claims that Texans have been wrongfully arrested for accidental exposure of their handgun.  Even if these claims are accurate, such incidences are few in number and passage of open-carry will not relieve the problem.  Any Texas peace officer who would arrest someone for unintentionally or accidentally exposing their handgun is abusing their authority and is arresting someone for an act that is clearly not illegal.  Any officer willing to do this would find it even easier to arrest someone who is openly carrying simply by claiming that they put their hand on their handgun thus violating the Texas Disorderly Conduct statute.

Open-Carry Deters Crime

Some will argue that citizens openly carrying handguns will reduce crime in Texas.  The argument is that the sight of an armed citizen will deter someone from committing a criminal act.  Unfortunately, there is no empirical evidence to support this claim.  While it is possible that open-carry would have a positive impact on the crime rate, it is highly unlikely.  All a would-be hijacker would have to do is simply wait until the armed citizen left, then commit whatever criminal act they originally planned.  This claim is further weakened by the acknowledgement that relatively few people will exercise the option to openly carry a handgun.

Anyone Openly Carrying a Handgun Will be the First Person Shot by Criminals

It is sometimes claimed that openly carrying a handgun makes one the primary target for criminals.  While this is undoubtedly true for some criminals, the fear is probably overblown.  All but a few criminals do not want a fight, they do not want to get caught, and they do not want to go to prison.  As mentioned in their preceding paragraph, all a would-be criminal would have to do is wait until the armed citizen  leaves the premises, then carry out the planned crime.

Open-Carry Will Increase Crime

This is an absurd allegation and thankfully only the most ardent anti-gun activists make this false claim.  As previously noted, the bill that will be introduced by Representative Lavender would allow open-carry only by Texas concealed handgun licensees.  CHL’s have a sixteen year track record that is the envy of the entire nation.  Over the last four years, Texas CHL’s are fifteen times less likely to commit a crime than is the general population in Texas.  There is no basis to argue that these people would constitute a threat to public safety simply because they exercised the option to openly carry a self-defense handgun rather than conceal it.

People Wanting Open-Carry Are In-Your-Face Cowboys

Some Texans fear that the only people who would actually carry a handgun openly are those who want to draw attention to themselves, who are potentially confrontational, and simply want to present a tough-guy image.  While this claim is probably overblown, YouTube videos are available on the Internet of people in other states intentionally making a show of the fact that their openly carrying a handgun.  The same people often appear to be baiting police officers attempting to create an incident that will allow them to later claim police harassment.

Incidents like those described in the preceding paragraph seem happen more often in states that allow unlicensed open-carry.  There is every reason to believe that Texas CHL’s will behave as responsibly if open-carry passes, as they have for the preceding sixteen years.  While there may be some such instances, they are likely to be few in number and very infrequent.

Open-Carry Will/Won’t Result in More Businesses Posting No Trespassing Signs

This is probably the single biggest issue that causes friction between the most ardent supporters of open-carry and people who currently hold a concealed handgun license.  Open-carry supporters point to the experience in other states as evidence that there will not be a rash of “no guns” signs.  Those who are concerned about this issue fear a repeat of what happened in Texas from the passage of the initial CHL statute in 1995 until the law was changed in 1997.

The reality is no one can be certain if the sight of people openly carrying handguns will prompt businesses to post “no guns” signs are not.  However, with a carefully drafted bill such as the one Representative Lavender envisions, safeguards can be in place that will protect the interests of CHL’s who are concerned about losing the ability to carry into businesses that currently do not prohibit their entry with a handgun.

Criminals Will Have Access to More Guns by Mugging People Openly Carrying Handguns

This seems to be another argument primarily from those considered to be anti-gun overall.  There is no empirical evidence to indicate this is a problem in states in which open-carry is actually practiced.  As noted elsewhere in this article, criminals want compliant victims, not gun flights, so it is highly unlikely the criminal will confront someone they know is armed.


I have no idea if open-carry will pass during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session, but it is highly likely that it will pass at some point in the future.  Texans should feel secure in the knowledge that the people they will see openly carrying handguns are members of the most law-abiding and trustworthy segment of society.  This is not conjecture or hyperbole, it is a fact based upon an astounding sixteen year track record earned by CHL’s.

If open-carry does pass, it is incumbent upon those Texans exercising this option to be extraordinarily polite and courteous so as to allay the fears of those who, for the first time in their lives, will see people openly carrying handguns.  For sixteen years, our fellow Texans have been walking with, sitting next to, and eating among, hundreds of thousands of armed, law-abiding CHL’s.  Those choosing to openly carry a handgun should view themselves as ambassadors for those Texans who chose to continue to conceal their self-defense handguns.

posted by Charles L. Cotton on Dec 20

Charles L. Cotton photoHistory of Concealed Handgun Licensees in Texas

The time has come for the Texas legislature to reduce the number of locations that are “off-limits” to holders of a Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL).  At the time Senate Bill 60 passed in 1995, it was considered by some as both a revolutionary and radical concept.  This opinion was even by some of the Bill’s supporters in the Texas Legislature.  Due to this uncertainty, SB 60 contained many provisions that were ultimately determined to be unnecessary.  These provisions included the designation of various locations as being off-limits to CHL’s carrying self-defense handguns.

The media-created hysteria that followed the passage of Texas’ first CHL’s statute in 1995 resulted in thousands of Texas businesses posting generic “no guns” decals.  Typically, they were either 2“X2” or 3”X3” clear decals placed on the lower corner of the business’ door.  The decals were easily missed by a CHL holder meaning they would unwittingly enter posted property.

Beginning with the 1997 Texas Legislative Session, the Texas CHL statute has been systematically amended to remove many of the unnecessary provisions.  A critical change came with the passage of HB 2909 in 1997.  This Bill made a number of amendments to Texas law, including the creation of Texas Penal Code Section 30.06 that established strict criteria to be followed by anyone wishing to exclude a CHL from their property.  As a result, very few businesses posted what became known as the “big ugly sign” greatly reducing the number of locations that were off-limits to CHL’s.

Over the following 15 years, the Texas concealed handgun license statute became a non-issue.  Texas was not reduced to a ghost town, there was no blood in the streets, and all of the other parade of horribles fervently preached by the news media did not come to pass.  Texans learned that CHL holders did not pose a threat to their safety and Texas peace officers have come to view the Texas Concealed Handgun License as a “good guy card.”

CHL’s Excellent Track Record

The Texas Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) publishes data setting out the conviction rates for the general public in Texas as well as CHL’s.  For several years, this writer has used this and other data to create a statistical analysis comparing crime rates on an annual basis.  The sixteen year track record achieved by Texas CHL’s is astounding.  Every year since SB 60 was passed in 1995, CHL’s have been far less likely to commit a crime than is the general public in Texas.  Over the years, this already excellent track record improved dramatically to the point that CHL’s are almost sixteen times less likely to commit a crime than is the general public in Texas.  Not only is this an astounding statistic, it is far better than that achieved by Texas law enforcement.

Off-Limits Areas

Most Texans are aware that Texas peace officers can carry their handguns virtually everywhere in the State, whether they are on duty or off duty.  Understandably, most people do not have a problem with having very few off-limits areas applicable to peace officers, but they are unaware of the large group of people who are classified as “peace officers” under Texas law.  A full discussion of the people that are legally defined as “peace officers” is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say it is far more than police officers, deputy sheriffs, and constables.  (For more information, go to

Peace officers are not the only Texans who enjoy very few off-limits areas.  Parole officers, juvenile probation officers, community supervision officers, judges  (including city/municipal court judges and J.P. Court judges), district and county attorneys and their attorney employees are all treated as though they were peace officers in terms of where they can and cannot carry their handguns.  It is enlightening that many of the above-referenced people enjoy reduced off – limits locations only if they also have a Texas Concealed Handgun License.  So it is not their job title that reduces the number of off-limits locations, it is the combination of their job title and the fact that they have a CHL.

Time to Level the Playing Field for All Texas CHLs

We are no longer dealing with an unknown quantity as we were sixteen  years ago when SB 60 passed in 1995.  We have the benefit of the sixteen  year track record that clearly proves all Texas CHL holders are trustworthy, not merely those who happen to be judges or attorneys.  Indeed, CHL’s have proven themselves far less likely to commit a crime than even peace officers who are subject to a very few off-limits restrictions.

There is no compelling reason to exclude CHL’s from most of the existing off-limits areas; indeed, thousands of CHL holders who are not peace officers are legally allowed to carry in those areas under current Texas law.  For sixteen years, it has been the public policy of this State to empower honest, law-abiding citizens who have obtained a Texas Concealed Handgun License to carry a self-defense handgun to protect themselves and their loved ones.  In 1995, it was unknown how well this program would work, so the list of off-limits locations was unnecessarily long.  Now that we have proof that Texas CHL’s are the most law-abiding Texans, it is time to extend that public policy by reducing the number of off-limits locations applicable to CHL’s.

A proposed bill is under consideration and may be filed during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session.  If the bill passes, locations that are off-limits to CHL’s will be reduced, but they still will not be able to carry in bars (51% locations), while intoxicated, or in locations that are made off-limits by federal law.  Private property owners will still be able to prevent CHL’s from carrying a concealed handgun on their property, pursuant to Texas Penal Code Section 30.06.

Over the years during discussions of off-limits locations, one would often hear the question asked, “why would you need a gun in _____________[?].”  That question misses the mark because it ignores the area between the CHL’s car in the off-limits locations.  For example, I seriously doubt that my wife  would ever need to use her self-defense handgun while watching a Houston Texans football game in Reliant Stadium.  However, over the years there have been several people murdered, assaulted,  robbed and raped in the parking lot surrounding Reliant Stadium, so she could well need her handgun going to and from her car.  The question should not be “why would you need a handgun,” it should be “is there a compelling reason to exclude handguns?”  In view of the excellent track record CHL’s have earned over the past sixteen years, the unequivocal answer is “no.”

We must also remember that every time a CHL is forced to remove his or her handgun and leave it in their car, we are increasing the likelihood that a criminal will see the CHL disarming and will target that vehicle for a burglary.  It is ironic that the greater the likelihood of this happening, the more likely the CHL would need their handgun walking to and from the off-limits location.


The fear of the unknown that existed sixteen  years ago and prompted the creation of numerous off-limits areas applicable to Texas CHL’s no longer exists.  Empirical evidence proves that Texas CHL’s are honest, law-abiding responsible citizens who have earned our trust.  Every time we require a CHL to remove their self-defense handgun before entering an off-limits location, we are rendering defenseless the most law-abiding of our citizens.  It is time to recognize CHL’s for their outstanding record over the last sixteen years and give them equal standing with other CHL’s who have been singled out for preferential treatment.

posted by Charles L. Cotton on Sep 24

The short answer to the question is a resounding “YES!”  We really are that good and this article sets out the proof.  But first, here is  a short history lesson.

Let us turn the clock back about twenty five years when the idea of passing legislation that would allow law-abiding Texans to carry handguns for self-defense was an idea that was still in its infancy.  Supporters of what we now call a Texas Concealed Handgun License, or simply CHL for short, were thought to be few in number and we were dismissed an “just more gun nuts.”  To say these were frustrating times would be an understatement, but supporters pressed on.  The campaign took on a new persona when newly elected State Senator Jerry Patterson (now Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson) filed a CHL bill in the 1993 Texas Legislative Session.

When it became obvious then-Governor Ann Richards was doing everything in her power to keep the bill from passing and veto it if it did pass, the bill was amended to simply allow Texans to vote in a non-binding referendum to see if we wanted the right-to-carry in Texas.  This amendment was designed to force Governor Richards to show her true colors and deny Texans even the opportunity to express their opinion by voting on the issue.  Richards vetoed the bill, lost her bid for reelection and the rest is history.  George W. Bush was elected Governor, Senator Patterson’s SB60 passed and for the first time in over 120 years, Texans were allowed to carry handguns for self-defense.

Throughout the fight to provide law-abiding Texans the ability as well as the right to defend their lives, opponents painted a bleak and foreboding picture of what life would be like in Texas if citizens were allowed to carry defensive handguns.  This “parade of horribles” knew no bounds with dire predictions that “fender-benders” would become gunfights, enraged husbands would be killing their wives in great big bleeding batches, and children would die by the tens of thousands when they found their parents guns and accidentally shot themselves, their friends and family.  The fact that this did not happen in other states that had concealed carry did not seem to matter to those committed to keeping Texans unarmed and defenseless.

After SB60 passed in 1995, the media and some elected officials who had opposed concealed-carry anxiously awaited the blood-bath they felt would surely come so they could taunt us with “I told you so” and repeal the law in 1997.  As time passed, Texas cities were not awash in blood and our ears were not ringing from gunfire.  Most of those who predicted genocide on a Biblical scale either quietly abandoned their opposition, or were intellectually honest enough to publicly admit their opposition had been unfounded.  Some even became enthusiastic supporters of concealed-carry as did former Harris County District Attorney, John B. “Johnny” Homes.

Not only did Texas’ CHL statute not result in the death toll some predicted, in the fifteen years since SB60 passed, Texas CHL holders have earned a enviable record in terms of being law-abiding citizens.  During that time frame, concealed-carry became a non-issue politically speaking, as well it should have in view of the facts.  While those of us heavily involved intuitively knew CHL’s had garnered a great track record, there was no documented proof.  Yes, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) published the crime statistics on its website, but those raw numbers were not terribly useful in revealing just how good Texas CHL’s really are.

In 2008, I decided it was time that Texas CHL’s and elected officials had documented facts and figures to prove what we knew to be true.  In the summer of that year, my law firm had a University of Texas engineering student as summer employee.  (I will not give her full name, but her first name is Allison.)   I assigned her the task of taking the crime statistics published by the DPS and put them in usable spreadsheets.  This was no easy assignment, in spite of the fact that much of the information was available on the DPS website.  At that time, it was difficult to find the yearly population of Texas residents by age.  Most population numbers were given in age ranges like 18 – 21, 22 – 25, etc.  But Allison was tenacious and she got all the data she needed to create what has become a cornerstone in terms of proof that Texas CHL’s are incredibly law-abiding citizens. She was also careful to document the source of information she used, so that anti-gunners could not falsely attack her work.  This documentation has been used by  Texas Senators and House Members, as well as Governor Perry and many others to show that Texas CHL’s are as responsible as we predicted all the way back in 1985.  I have only talked to Allison once since 2008, but I hope she knows what a valuable resource her work has become and how it has benefited almost 450,000 Texas CHL’s.  (Yes, we are approaching 450,000 CHL’s in Texas!)

Any statistical analysis of a large population can be somewhat daunting to comprehend.  When we are dealing with populations in the 15 million range, even a change of 1/10th of 1 percent is a lot of people.  Therefore, the data is presented in different formats; crimes per 100,000; total convictions; and conviction percentages.  Of these, the easiest for most of us to use and understand is the comparison per 100,000.   It should also be noted that crimes committed by the general population under age 21 years are not included in this analysis, to keep the comparison from being artificially skewed in favor of CHL’s.

The current datasheet covers the years 2002 through 2006.  When the work was done in 2008, DPS had not yet published the figures for 2007.  The spreadsheet will be updated to include those numbers, but this is no small task.  When the work is finished, it will be posted here and on Here are some examples of what the data show for the calendar year 2006, the latest year in the study.  Not all crimes set out in the study are included in this example:

  • In 2006, there were 258,162 active CHLs, but only 140 total convictions.
  • Overall – The general population over age 21 is over 7 times as likely to commit any offense listed by DPS as are CHLs
  • Assault – The general population over age 21 is over 8 times as likely to commit an assault as are CHLs
  • Burglary – The general population over age 21 is over 38 times as likely to commit a burglary as are CHLs
  • Prohibited Weapons – The general population over age 21 is over 21 times as likely to be convicted of possessing prohibited weapons as are CHLs
  • Robbery – The general population over age 21 is over 63 times as likely to commit a robbery as are CHLs

So Texas CHL’s, you can take a well-deserved bow.  The general public, the media and elected officials need to keep the truth in mind when dealing with legislation in the 2011 Texas Legislative Session that will be designed to increase public safety by reducing the locations that are statutorily off-limits to Texas CHL’s.  When emotional rhetoric fills the airways during the legislative session, we all must remember that so-called “gun free” zones, whether parking lots, schools, or elsewhere, are gun free only until would-be mass murderers decide to target those areas precisely because their intended victims will be defenseless.  Texas CHL’s have proven themselves to be responsible, law-abiding citizens capable of properly using handguns to preserve innocent life.  It is past time to remove artificial and unnecessary barriers based upon discredited fear mongering by people unwilling to acknowledge the truth.


CHL crime comparison

posted by Charles L. Cotton on Jul 3

It is unlikely that any 911 tape has been as widely distributed and as thoroughly debated as the one related to Joe Horn’s shooting of two fleeing burglars who had broken into his neighbor’s home. Had it not been for Mr. Horn’s statements on the 911 tape, no one outside of Mr. Horn’s family, neighborhood and a few Pasadena policemen would have known anything about him or the shooting.

Unfortunately, Mr. Horn’s ill-advised and inflammatory statements to the 911 dispatcher thrust him into the spotlight, a position of prominence he came to loath. In spite of how “bad” the tape sounded, those in legal circles knew that his actions were entirely lawful, according to the Texas Penal Code. Unlike many states, deadly force can be used by Texans to protect property under certain circumstances. Deadly force can also be used against fleeing burglars, again, under certain circumstances. (See Tex. Penal Code §§9.41-9.43).

After seeing the ordeal Mr. Horn has had to endure, it should be clear that one must be very careful about what is said to a 911 dispatcher. There is little doubt that much of what Mr. Horn said was the result of a combination of factors such as fear, impatience, concern, bravado and adrenalin-dump, rather than heart-felt comments or a desire to take someone’s life. Nevertheless, the now-infamous 911 tape has been heard literally around the world and it matters not what motivated the comments.

Mr. Horn has received death threats, his home, indeed his entire block, has been the scene of a loud and potentially dangerous protest, and he has been vilified by so-called community activists. Others have called him a model citizen, the perfect neighbor and a hero. Passions have run high on both sides of this event and the Harris County Grand Jury should be commended for not succumbing to this pressure and returning an indictment against a man who so clearly did not violate Texas law.

Throughout this ordeal, the phrase “he took the law into his own hands” was thrown about like a baseball in Spring time. This often used phrase is not found in the Texas Penal Code or in Blacks Law Dictionary, but its colloquial use implies that someone has broken the law. This is yet another inaccurate and unjustified description of Mr. Horn’s actions. While reasonable minds can differ as to whether Mr. Horn acted prudently, or whether others would have reacted to the burglary as he did, it is clear that he did not break the law.

The 2009 Texas Legislative Session may well see an effort by some to change Texas law to prohibit the use of deadly force to protect property, or to stop certain fleeing felons. This effort should be soundly defeated, as it works to the benefit of criminals, not honest citizens. Burglaries often result in the homeowner and his or her family being injured or killed. Diminishing the occupational hazards of being a burglar should not be a goal of the Texas Legislature. If such legislation should pass, the lives of some burglars may be spared, but at the cost innocent lives.

Charles L. Cotton

posted by Charles L. Cotton on Apr 27

As I am writing this article, I’m sitting in a lounge chair on my patio. A strong wind is blowing and dark clouds are rolling in. It’s clear that a storm is coming. Well, I wish the only storm brewing was related to the weather! Eight years of relative peace on the federal front are coming to a close and political storm clouds are gathering. President Bush didn’t go out of his way to help gun owners, but he didn’t hurt us either, even when pressured to do so after the Democrats took control of Congress and tried to “deal” on legislation he wanted.

Gun owners have enjoyed tremendous success at the polls for several years, even considering the Democrats regaining majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. Many of the newly elected Democrats claim to truly support the Second Amendment, but only time and an opportunity to vote on gun bills will tell whether these claims are election rhetoric or true commitments. One thing is certain, the 2008 Presidential Election offers the very real prospect of returning an anti-gun President to the White House. This has implications even more ominous than the 1994 passage of the Clinton gun-ban, also known as the “assault weapons” ban. As noted, many of the “new” Democrats in Washington have not had the opportunity or misfortune to see a vote on a gun bill. So Second Amendment supporters must still view the likelihood that the Democratic Party’s margins in both the House and the Senate will increase as an ominous possibility. Clearly, the battle to defend our Second Amendment rights is far from over.

After suffering stunning defeats at the polls in 2000 and 2004, anti-freedom groups like the Violence Policy Center, Sara Brady and their ilk focused on state legislatures. They were hardly content to accept the demise of the so-called “assault weapons” ban and introduced even more menacing legislation in several states. After taking control of the U.S. House and Senate, the Democrats introduced an even more Draconian “assault weapons” ban at the federal level. Though filed, this bill has not been pushed by the Democrats for fear it would hurt them in the 2008 Elections. The anti-gun forces bankrolling the anti-gun Democrats are confident that whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is in the White House, they will remember them as their “friends.” So if we see a President Obama or President Clinton in 2008, then the far-reaching “new” assault weapons ban will be the first of many battles we will have to fight. Remember, Obama has stated he supports not only the assault weapons ban, but also a federal law banning concealed carry by citizens throughout the entire Country!

Under President Bush’s direction, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton lead a successful fight against anti-gun forces within the United Nations and against George Soros’ puppet Rebecca Peters, all of whom were trying to do with a UN treaty what the anti-gun forces have been unable to do in the Legislature. Unfortunately, the U.N. small arms treaty is like a summer cold, it always seems to come back. If Clinton or Obama are in the White House and Democrats like Senators Schumer and Feinstein continue to enjoy a majority in the Senate, a devastating U.N. smalls arms treaty is a very real possibility.

At a time when we should be gearing up for battle, there is a distinct danger that the pro-Second Amendment voter base has grown complacent, because of our successes at the state and federal levels for the last eight years. Our victories have been numerous. The NRA and its state associations have steadfastly expanded law-abiding citizens’ rights to carry handguns for self-defense. “Shall issue” concealed carry statutes are now the rule, rather than the exception, in the majority of states; a feat many would have considered impossible only a few years ago. Anti-lawsuit statutes have been passed in several states to protect firearms manufacturers from frivolous, politically motivated suits filed solely to drive them out of business. This is in addition to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed at the federal level to provide a two-pronged defense.

The NRA also took action in response to the atrocities inflicted on helpless citizens in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Former Mayor Ray Nagin, illegally and unconstitutionally ordered the confiscation of all firearms from law-abiding but stranded and helpless citizens, leaving them without the means of self-defense at a time when their lives were clearly in danger. As one woman said, “They didn’t offer me a drink of water, they didn’t offer me any food, they didn’t offer me a ride out, they just took my gun and left!” Thanks to the NRA, federal legislation was passed preventing the repeat of such despicable acts by public officials. However, the NRA didn’t stop there. Suit was filed on behalf of citizens whose property was illegally confiscated and the scope of Mayor Nagin’s lies and deeds came to light during the discovery process. We should also take pride in the fact that this suit was made possible because the NRA had investigators on location in New Orleans to obtain documentary proof of Mayor Nagin’s quest.

The NRA made passage of laws commonly known as the “Castle Doctrine” a top priority in the states. These laws vary by state, but at their core they allow a citizen to defend themselves from violent attack, without having to worry about facing prosecution and prison. Many of the states included civil liability protection in their version of the “Castle Doctrine.”

But make no mistake, all of these successes are in danger. With the Democrats in control of the House and Senate, not only do we face the very real possibility of another assault weapons ban that is more encompassing than Bill Clinton’s version, we could see the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and the Emergency Powers Act that prohibits the confiscation of firearms in times of emergency. If John McCain is President, he likely would veto such legislation; Clinton or Obama would sign it with a big grin on their face.

I made this statement in 2005 and it bears repeating.

Ironically, our successes can actually work against us, unless we are ever vigilant. It is comforting to see the great strides we have made, but we cannot allow that success to lull us into complacency. Rather, we must use our successes as a springboard for new efforts.

Unfortunately, three years after first making this statement, our “new efforts” are going to be directed largely toward protecting what we have gained.

There is much work to be done. In truth the fight to defend all Constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, will never end. There will be times of relative peace as we enjoyed from 2000 to 2008, but the threat will always be present to some greater or lesser degree. While we have to guard against complacency that is born of success, so too must we guard against fatigue caused by a seemingly endless battle. So how do we accomplish this? We win by staying in the fight with our commitment of time, energy, effort and money. If you are not a member of the NRA and the TSRA, then by all means join both. If you are already a member, then consider a donation or better yet, regular sustaining donations. Our successes have always come at the cost of time, effort and money and this isn’t going to change. In addition to money, be ready to respond to a call to action by voting, getting others to vote to support their Second Amendment Right, and placing calls, faxes and emails to Senators and Representatives.

Millions of our ancestors fought World War I, the “war to end all wars,” with the fervent hope that their children would know war only on the pages of history books. But only 23 years later, Americans found themselves in World War II locked in a battle to save our way of life. We’ve learned there is no “war to end all wars” whether it is fought on the battlefield, or in the political arena. So pray for peace, even if only for a little while, but do so while preparing for the coming political battles. To do less would guarantee the demise of the Second Amendment.


posted by Charles L. Cotton on Mar 7

Chas PhotoThe gun control crowd has learned to stop using the term “gun control.” They even credit the National Rife Association (NRA) with making it a vile phrase. Well, they are correct. When one takes the time to look past the rhetoric and evaluate the true motives and goals of those who oppose Second Amendment freedoms, it quickly becomes apparent that the long term plan is to systematically and incrementally disarm American citizens. To conceal this goal, those who would deprive citizens of the means of self-defense use terms that are not readily identified with gun control.

So what words and phrases should raise one’s level of concern, especially when spoken by politicians seeking votes? Phrases like “sensible gun laws,” “common sense gun laws,” “it’s for the children” and “gun safety laws” are all phrases of choice of gun control advocates. The motive for using such phrases is clear; what rational person could oppose anything that is “sensible” and who wouldn’t want to take an action if it truly was “for the children?” And of course, everyone favors increasing “safety” in most activities of life. When those phrases are uttered, warning flags should fly and it’s time to look behind the rhetoric and see what they are really saying.

Although this warning applies to any politician and gun control advocate, the 2008 Presidential race makes Barrack Hussein Obama’s record on gun control of utmost importance. Senator Obama makes no bones about supporting “common-sense gun control laws,” so what precisely does he consider “common-sense gun control laws?” (Oops, he slipped and said “gun control,” but that was in 2003 and he undoubtedly has been working on this for the Presidential campaign.) At least some indication of his view of Second Amendment rights can be seen in his flippant and dismissive comment about National Rifle Association (NRA) members in the same article, the June 26, 2003 issue of the Black Commentator, wherein Mr. Obama said:

Thus, while I may favor common-sense gun control laws, that doesn’t keep me from reaching out to NRA members who are worried about their lack of health insurance.

Obviously, Senator Obama had no desire to discuss NRA members’ desire to protect the Second Amendment, but why did he find it necessary to so publically and flippantly insult NRA members? Could it be that he views NRA members unworthy of even having their concerns addressed?

In addition to pushing for additional Draconian gun control laws, anti-rights advocates used the insidious tactic of filing frivolous law suits against gun manufactures. The admitted goal was to so overburden firearm manufacturers with legal defense costs that it would drive them out of business. This tactic likely would have worked had it not been for passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. In spite of dishonest comments to the contrary, this Act prevents only groundless and frivolous suits, it does not prevent suits based upon true products liability theories of recovery. In true gun control advocate form, Senator Obama lashed out against this legislation blatantly lying about the threat to the firearm industry in the process. In a Chicago Tribune article proudly displayed on his own website, Senator Obama bemoaned the impending passage of the Act. Excerpts from his anti-gun diatribe include the following:


Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who has taught law at the University of Chicago, said the courts have done a good job of handling, and disposing of, the suits that have been filed. And, he said, gun manufacturers and dealers are not going bankrupt from those cases.

“There is no crisis,” Obama said. “Guns are plentiful. We have multiple guns for every man, woman and child in this country.”

There is ample evidence to prove that Senator Obama is an enemy of law-abiding gun owners and the Second Amendment. He has a record of voting against gun owners on Second Amendment issues and until he decided to run for President, he openly spoke of his gun control ambitions. So don’t be fooled with his recent tactic of paying lip service to gun owners, hunters and the Second Amendment. It is merely a ploy to conceal his true agenda. As the Boston Globe noted in a February 19, 2008 article:


Last week, the day after the rampage that left six people dead at Northern Illinois University, Barack “Hope” Obama did a classic equivocation as if he knew the National Rifle Association was waiting to nail him in all the “red” states he has won. Obama said, “Today we offer them our thoughts and prayers, but we also have to offer them our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities. That is our duty as Americans.”

In the same press conference he reassured gun owners by saying, “I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it’s subject to common-sense regulation.”

There it is again; “subject to common-sense regulation.” Senator Obama, you cannot hide from your record opposing Second Amendment rights and Americans are not going to be fooled by buzz phrases. Your motives are clear, your rhetoric is unconvincing and you owe it to the American public to abandon self-serving, politically expedient buzz phrases. Americans know you support laws that would deprive them of the right to own and use firearms for self-defense and sporting purposes, so be intellectually honest enough to admit it.


posted by Charles L. Cotton on Feb 26

On Monday, February 25, 2008, the Beaumont Enterprise published an editorial that purports to be an endorsement of Texas Senator Tommy Williams, but is nothing more than not-so-veiled airing of sour grapes. This short, half-page editorial raises three complaints, but only one is addressed in this response, although all three are equally unfounded.The Texas concealed handgun law passed in 1995 and Texas Concealed Handgun Licensees (“CHLs”) have proven themselves to be the most law-abiding segment of the Texas population. Conviction statistics maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) supports this conclusion. For several years, many members of the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate have sought to protect the identity of CHLs, but this effort has always met strong opposition from the media. The media’s excuses changed over the years, ranging from a desire to prevent prejudice against minorities in the issuance or denial of licenses, to a general right of the public to know who has a CHL. Until 2007, the media’s curiosity prevailed over the security needs of the most law-abiding of Texans.

In the 2007 Texas Legislative Session, HB991 passed making the identity of Texas CHLs confidential and available only to law enforcement and judicial personnel. The need for this protection was so obvious, one wonders why it took so long to pass. Prior to the passage of HB991, anyone could send a letter and $5 to the DPS and check to see if any particular person had a CHL. By law, the DPS was powerless to protect the identity of the CHL and had to provide the information. Senator Williams was among twenty seven (27) Texas Senators and 133 Members of the Texas House of Representatives that understood the danger that CHLs faced when any estranged spouse, scorned boyfriend or girlfriend, or violent criminal could find out if any would-be victim was or was not able to carry a handgun for self-defense. This information would be invaluable in determining whether to attack someone and when to do so. Only four (4) Senators voted against HB991, in essence saying that the media’s curiosity was more important than protecting the lives and identity of CHLs.

But people obtaining this information to use in the commission of a crime against a CHL are not the only ones who would abuse the then-current law. Testimony on HB991 included a stunning revelation that Canon USA, with its home office in Canada, has the audacity to require every employee to disclose whether they had a CHL as a term of employment. They also require all employees to advise the Human Resources department if they ever apply for a CHL and if their status as a CHL holder changes. To enforce this absurd invasion of privacy, Canon USA told its employees that it would periodically send a request to the DPS to check whether they had a CHL and if so, its status. This revelation was shocking as such non-criminal use of this information was none the less offensive and had to be stopped.

As for protecting minorities, the DPS already provides all of the information necessary to determine if the Concealed Handgun Licenses are being issued, denied, or revoked in compliance with the law and without prejudice against minorities. Demographic information about licenses issued, denied, suspended and revoked are posted by race, sex, age, zip code and County. This information enables the media to protect minority interests, thus making it unnecessary to risk the lives and identity of individual CHLs.

The Beaumont Enterprise stated in its editorial that “. . . there was virtually no evidence that current state laws were insufficient.” To the contrary, the evidence and the testimony was clear, if only the Enterprise had listened. Thankfully, Senator Tommy Williams and 159 other Senators and Representatives did listen and stood in the gap for CHLs.


posted by Charles L. Cotton on Feb 16

Reasonable minds may differ on many issues. Should taxes be raised or lowered? Are we winning the war on terror? Is the Patriot Act unpatriotic? Should Texas school districts be able to start the fall semester before September 1st each year? Are local zoning ordinances too restrictive or too lenient? There are opinions, often strongly held opinions, on both sides of all of these issues and that’s a good thing. It forces all of us to defend our respective positions and in so doing, we reevaluate our beliefs and the facts supporting those beliefs. But there are some disputes that defy logic and reason. Some of those groundless disputes have tragic consequences.

School shootings are rare, as are shootings in churches, malls and anywhere else would-be mass murderers can find a target-rich environment. However, extensive media coverage of these events is having an impact and it is not a beneficial one. The number of such shootings though small are increasing. Consider also that people who commit mass murders tend to be suicidal; as the military and police say, “they have no exit strategy.” That is a fancy way of saying they have come to kill and to die themselves. That is terrifying!

We can all scratch our collective heads and try to fathom why Charles Carl Roberts, IV would walk into an Amish girls school and start shooting innocent children killing five (Oct. 2, 2006); or why Seung-Hui Cho killed thirty-two people and wounded seventeen more at Virginia Tech (April 16, 2007); or why Stephen Kazmierczak, a twenty-seven year old “very good student” walked into Northern Illinois University and killed six students (Feb. 15, 2008)? The mystery behind these murderers’ motives probably will never be fully understood, but we know precisely why they selected their respective venues to do their random killing. Every one of these events took place in an allegedly “gun free zone.”

Many have stopped using the “gun free zone” euphemism choosing to more accurately label these areas “gun free victim zones.” This term is more than just a catchy phrase, or a great sound bite for those pushing to remove legal restrictions that make such mass murders possible. It is a supremely accurate description of the places where we send our children and college age sons and daughters to learn. We owe it to them, to their children and to ourselves to remove the human hunting grounds legislatures unwittingly created.

As any trial attorney knows, one element of a civil lawsuit that must be proven in court is “causation.” Often, this issue is far from clear and very difficult to prove. But the “causation” element in recent mass murders is as obvious as the proverbial “nose on your face.” Roberts, Cho, Kazmierczak and all of the other school shooters chose their locations for one reason and one reason only – they were “gun free victim zones.”   One never hears of someone trying to do this at a police station, a military base, or perhaps a shooting range.   It doesn’t take a doctorate in sociology or psychology to understand why these murderers choose schools; they are legislatively created killing fields. In each state where these tragedies occurred, state law prohibited citizens licensed to carry handguns from bringing those defensive firearms into the schools. They could carry them virtually everywhere else, except of course in Illinois, but not in schools. In their infinite wisdom, elected officials apparently determined that otherwise responsible, law-abiding citizens would be transformed into dangerous would-be murders. What lunacy!

Thankfully, there are dedicated elected officials who are working hard to bring an end to the easy target zone others have created and jealously maintain. Texas Governor Rick Perry announced shortly after the Virginia Tech tragedy that all Texans with Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHLs) should be able to carry their guns anywhere in Texas. Finally, a voice of reason; someone showing true compassion and concern for human life, rather than spouting a political mantra. Another state senator willing to take up the cause is Indiana State Senator Johnny Nugent who sponsored SB356 that would have allowed all Indiana CHLs to carry defensive handguns on any State property, including universities. This bill failed by one vote on February 7, 2008. In view of the Northern Illinois University shooting eight days later, one must wonder how many Indiana Senators would like to have that vote back? Senator Nugent’s words must still be ringing in their ears:

“Criminals love to operate in areas where guns are outlawed, because they know their victims are defenseless. This bill is about safety and restoring Hoosiers’ right to self-defense no matter where they are. It simply isn’t right that, as a lawmaker, I am permitted to carry a handgun at the Statehouse, but members of our staff or citizens with valid carry permits cannot. Prohibiting them from carrying a weapon for which they have a legal permit is not acceptable and the law needs to be changed.”

Thank you Senator Nugent.

Often debate on bills involves some speculation or prognostication as to the effect of a change in the law. In this instance, no speculation is required. People are dying in “gun free victim zones” and the media is unwittingly increasing the danger by giving attention-starved murderers their fifteen minutes of fame. Contrast these shootings with the events at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado where, on December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray walked into the church planning yet another mass murder. Fortunately for the congregation, Colorado CHL holder Jeanne Assam, a volunteer member of the Church’s security team, was present with her handgun. She shot Murray, limiting the death toll to two, with three wounded. Although the media tried to skew public opinion concerning Ms. Assam by referring to her as a former police officer, she had not worn a badge in over ten years. As she herself noted, she was an armed citizen doing what was right to save lives. And save lives she did. At the time of the shooting, there were about 7,000 people on the church grounds. Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers described Ms. Assam as, “a courageous security staff member who probably saved many lives.”

The issue is clear and there can be no intellectually honest debate. “Gun free school zones” are killing people in alarming numbers and we are long past the time when the law must be changed. This issue will come up in the Texas Legislature in the 2009 Legislative Session and our elected officials need to follow the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry and Indiana Senator Johnny Nugent. We trust CHLs to carry defensive handguns virtually everywhere else in the State; it’s time to say lives are just as valuable on university campuses as they are off campus.

To those who oppose this change I ask, how high must the body-count go, before you put politics and prejudice aside and vote to save lives?


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