Activists debate gun rights expansion, constitutional carry

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Tempers flared at an open carry panel Saturday when one panelist argued for the expansion of gun rights in Texas to include constitutional carry during the 2015 Texas Tribune Festival.

After the 84th legislative session ended in May, Gov. Greg Abbott signed two hotly debated expansions of gun rights into state law on June 13 after both campus carry and open carry passed the House and Senate. While most gun rights activists heralded the new laws as a monumental win for their side, other activists argued for even further expansions.

“I’d like to see us become a constitutional carry state,” Christopher “C.J.” Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, said. “Right now, the only people being prevented from carrying are law-abiding citizens who either can’t afford or don’t want a license. Criminals are going to carry anyway.”

Grisham is currently running for the Republican nomination in Senate District 24 after state Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) announced his retirement in early June.

Although she said she is a supporter of the Second Amendment and a licensed carrier, Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) disagreed with Grisham, saying she doesn’t understand the need for expanding gun rights any more.

“I don’t think that I have to expose it, that I have to wear it on the outside,” Alvarado said. “What’s wrong with what we have now?”

Overall, Grisham said he was offended by the discussion on open carry and compared the requirement of Concealed Handgun Licenses to the gold stars of David used to identify Jewish individuals during the Holocaust.

“Why are we going to identify a segment of law abiding citizens with some sort of outward identification?” Grisham said. “Let’s make felons wear those, let’s make child molesters wear those. … I just want to go about my business, I don’t want to draw attention to me.”

Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) questioned Grisham on where to draw the line on expanding gun rights and said Texans seem to like the way Texas currently handles the issue.

“I think some people say they like the way Texas is, they like to know that someone has gone through training,” Springer said. “[What line] do we draw the constitution at? Does that mean my 15-year-old daughter can take my gun to school?

As an unelected official, APD Chief Acevedo argued that people who support gun rights must learn to not push too hard or they could see a backlash at the polls.

“The Second Amendment is just that,” Acevedo said. “There will come a point of no return where there is a process where that amendment can be changed by the will of the people of this country. People don’t vote, there will come a time when they feel motivated to when enough blood is shed in our country.”