When you’re heading out the door to run an errand with your kids, lots of things probably go through your mind. Things like, Did I stock the diaper bag? What did I need to get at the store again? or For the love of guacamole, why are their shoes already off when I just put them on??
All of those things run through my head, too (especially the guacamole part), but now I have a new little thought that comes dancing in with all of the others, and it goes something like this: Are my kids and I going to come face to face with a gun at the place we’re going?
And it’s a legitimate possibility, too.
You see, I live in Texas, and as of three days now, Texas open carry law says it’s legal for handgun license holders to openly carry their guns in public. Yep, around here we like to joke about the stereotypes that still persist with regard to the Lone Star State. No, we don’t ride horses to work (psshh), but the one about people freely toting weapons around like in the days of the Wild West? Well, we just invited that one right back through the saloon doors, sat it down on a rickety bar stool, and told it to kick up its heels and stay a while.
Now my gun-toting friends (oh yeah, I’ve got ‘em. I live in Texas, remember?) assure me that with the passage of this law, my family and I just got a lot safer every time we venture out in public. I share with them my trepidation at the thought of encountering a Colt 45 (wait, that’s a gun, right? I wasn’t actually born in Texas) mere inches from my face as I lean over to pick out a ripe avocado in the produce section, and they laugh off my concerns.
“No, no, no, my friend,” they tell me. “The good guys are going to be the ones openly displaying their weapons in an intimidating, if overcompensating, manner. Then the bad guys will see those beacons of machismo and go a-runnin’! You were a sitting duck before. Now you are protected!”
Naively, I thought there already were people whose job it is to protect the public from the bad guys. To my understanding, these people undergo extensive firearms training, can be quickly identified by their badges and uniforms, and are ultimately held accountable by the larger organization of which they are a part.
Again, I am told that I am sorely mistaken. The way to curb the seemingly endless stream of gun violence in our country, I am to understand, is by putting more guns in plain sight—and not in the hands of those trained individuals I mentioned a second ago, but in the hands of any Tom, Dick or Dirty Harry with an easily obtained license and a cowboy complex.
How did it come to this? I ask myself. How am I sitting in front of the computer right now Googling whether or the local museum has decided to allow visitors to walk around with guns inside it? Isn’t it enough for me to try to keep my three kids from touching the visiting Gutenberg Bible display, but now I’ve got to make sure they don’t accidentally rub up against Billy Badass’s piece as well?
And how am I supposed to distinguish the real “good guys” carrying their weapons around from the ones just pretending to be good guys—you know, the ones who actually just want to keep up the nation’s average of more than one mass shooting per day? I guess I should just assume that any individual who feels paranoid enough to strap a firearm onto their hip every time they go in public is also rational enough to use that firearm in a responsible manner. Right.
The thing is, having grown up in Texas and now raising kids here, I have grown accustomed to a certain level of crazy. We’re not quite to Florida levels yet, but that’s probably just because we don’t have as many alligators per capita as they do. Unlike my foreign-born husband, I grew up around a steady stream of guns, Bibles and evolution-deniers. I have shaken my head many a time at the headlines that put our great state in the national news spotlight.
And even with all of that, it wasn’t until now, until three days ago, that I genuinely felt afraid to live here. But now, thanks to the lobbyists and activists that brought open carry to my front door, I am officially quaking in my cowboy boots.