Thursday, April 21, 2011

Keep Packing Pols Out of Pubs

God bless the Texas Legislature. School districts are laying off hundreds of teachers and other school employees as the state grapples with a massive deficit, which was caused by the shortsighted actions of that same august body. Meanwhile, legislators who possess a concealed handgun license may soon be able to legally pack heat in places where the rest of us common folk can’t — bars, schools, churches, football stadiums, even Six Flags. Now that’s important stuff.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is sponsoring the measure out of what he said is a question of logistics. Legislators have to go from one place to another, often five or six places in one evening. If the stops include either a watering hole or a place that distributes holy water (the former is considerably more likely, especially at night), then legislators would have to unholster and leave their weapons in their vehicles — or back at the office.

Well, cry me a river.

Let me establish some credentials lest I be branded an anti-gun, bleeding-heart liberal. I belong to a not-so-elite group known as gun-toting liberals. I’m fiscally conservative, socially progressive and a strong believer in both the First and Second Amendments. Further, I have owned a concealed handgun license for nearly five years. In fact, this summer I will have to suffer through taking the daylong class to renew my license so I can upgrade to legally carrying a semi-automatic. I originally qualified only with a revolver because that was the only type of handgun I owned.

I own several handguns, a 20-gauge shotgun, and a really cool pellet rifle with a scope. I revel in firing off rounds from my brother-in-law’s .223 machine gun out in an East Texas pasture, shooting clay pigeons (or trying to, anyway), and generally engaging what is referred to in the Piney Woods as “blowing stuff up.” Some folks substitute a different word for “stuff,” but this is a family newspaper. I once watched a young woman obliterate a discarded porcelain toilet with a single round from an SKS that a buddy owns. It was a thing of beauty.

However, I have never cared for hunting, though I have nothing against it. I’m just not enthusiastic about shooting and skinning an animal. That is messy work, so I prefer what little meat I consume arrive already shrink-wrapped and USDA approved. I’m not that crazy about eating wild meat anyway, such as deer or dove. I am willing and capable of shooting a wild hog. Feral hogs are a dratted nuisance. I have killed a couple of snakes, operating under the premise that any reptile dumb enough to take up residence in my garage deserves to die. This did not involve gunfire, since the threat of ricochets gave me pause.

I am firmly opposed to a lawmaker being able to carry a .357 into the Texas Chili Parlor or Scholz Garten if the rest of us can’t. Besides, why should they be able to do so when the mayor of Cedar Park or a Leander city councilwoman can’t do the same? So if we allow state legislators to pack a Glock into Gueros, the next logical step is to allow all elected officials to do so. Pretty soon county commissioners from East Texas will be in Austin for a convention, getting tanked up at the strip bar. Gunfire could erupt over a discussion about the unit road system. Do we really want an Upshur County commissioner bringing a gun into the Yellow Rose when visiting the big city? I think not.

OK, be honest. How many of you reading this even know what your state representative or senator’s name is, let alone what the person looks like? I do, but that’s a job requirement. So the notion that these folks need the added protection of being able to pack heat while drumming up early voting mail ballots at the nursing home is just a bit far-fetched.

I saw the play about Molly Ivins last month down at Zach Scott Theatre. The late columnist is one of my heroes. In the play, the woman playing Molly quotes a story from Ann Richards, our late governor and another very funny woman. Seems the ACLU was complaining about a crèche constructed on the Capitol grounds at Christmas. Violation of church and state and all that. Personally, as long as the state allows folks to put up a statue of Buddha on his birthday, I’m good with a crèche at the Capitol.

So was Ann. She said, “Oh, honey, leave them be. That’s the closest three wise men will ever get to the state Legislature.” Bills like Patrick’s only confirm that sentiment.

Originally published in The Hill Country News (Cedar Park, Texas), April 21, 2011.


  1. Terrific column. Best line: "Do we really want an Upshur County commissioner bringing a gun into the Yellow Rose when visiting the big city? I think not."

  2. Thanks, Mere. And no, we don't want any county commissioners I've met packing heat in the Yellow Rose. Trust me on this.